I can’t imagine a life without prayer. It may appear to others that I have let my prayer life lapse. I haven’t been to an actual church service in the last few years, partly because of Covid, and partly because of laziness and disillusion with the structure, meaning the business side of churches today. Yet, I rarely miss a Sunday of online service.
I have a prayer app and a Bible on my phone that I try to use each day. It’s where I store my prayer list. My bookshelves are full of Christian books, although I am almost scared to use the word Christian anymore because of the way it is bandied about with political affiliations that twist the word, and turn it into something I do not recognize when I think of prayer and relationship with God.
I might appear to others and even my family as someone who has lost faith. I used to be an avid churchgoer, dedicated volunteer, and tried to do everything the right way in the eyes of others. That’s just it—the eyes of others. For me the pandemic helped slow me down and examine my unease when it came to church and prayer.
I found I loved the beautiful worded prayers of others, in person or in a prayer book. I get anxious because though I am a writer, I can’t make up flowery prayer on my own. Panic sets in if someone asks me to lead prayer. I babble. I’m insecure and the words don’t reach my heart.
I realized that my frustration with church was about the business dynamics and the structure. We spend more time and money on pomp and circumstance then we do on educating our children with programs and outreach to the community. It costs money to belong to most churches, and if you don’t have any, it’s occasionally hard to participate in activities or listen to the pitch for money when you can contribute little. I once was told by a church council President that my views didn’t matter because I didn’t give enough money. Imagine a homeless person walking into a church service with their old clothes and see what would happen. Would they be welcomed? Would they feel out of place?
It’s scary to share my insecurities. They’ve always been there. I just sucked them up and became part of church communities. When our life changed years ago I saw things differently. A change in our lifestyle because of circumstances changed the dynamics of our church life. No one intentionally made us feel bad, and many had no idea, but we couldn’t contribute like before and there was always an appeal for money to make the building better, or activities cost so we quit going to the activities and pulled back. We felt the shame of not being able to heed the call as we had in better days.
Back to prayer. We had to rely on and believe God had this. That’s all we could do. That’s all we can do in our lives. Prayer is what kept us going. It wasn’t the flowery prayer but just the simple prayer from our hearts that would be uttered over and over in different ways through the day. It was the two or three of us in conversation over coffee about God and prayer and taking the time to pray with those people, that kept us going. It was the simple prayer, “Help me, Lord.” It was others praying for us.
I may not be in church each Sunday, but prayer in my day never ends. I find myself uttering small prayers throughout the day, prayers of thanks, of blessing and gratitude and asking for help. I guess you could say it’s prayer without ceasing because it’s a habit. It’s where I turn. I suspect there are many others like me.
I know I need church community. My best friends over the years have come out of that community and will again once I settle in my living arrangements so I can find a church home. Church community though can be so much more than a building or a denomination. We have church community here, where we live in Independent/Assisted living. It is not unusual for someone in the dining room to ask for us to pray, or at an activity. If someone needs prayer another resident might come to our room, or we to theirs to pray for someone. This is another kind of church community.
I chose to share my thoughts because I felt someone might be feeling the way I have, and to let them know they are not alone. Your prayers matter and they are heard, no matter if they are rote prayer or a muttering as you’re walking down the street. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a sacred space or in a homeless shelter. Your prayers are heard.
I am not a religious scholar, just an ordinary person so I can’t tell you if what I’m saying is right. They are just my feelings. And now it’s time for online service with my old home church. Have a beautiful prayerful day.