Writing Prayers

It’s as if my whole life I’ve been trying to learn a language, and it wasn’t until I started to write that I could finally speak it.

It’s evening. Late.

And somewhere, just beyond the edge of my thoughts, there’s a prayer waiting.

I’ve learned by now that it won’t wait long. I leave my bed and move into a quiet room where I turn on only one light. I take out my prayer journal.

The journal is kept hidden—not that there is anything I’m eager to hide, but more because my prayers aren’t written for anyone but to whom they are addressed. Each prayer begins the same way, and this night is no different.

“Lord, my lord,” I begin.

Often I pray like a prodigal, only turning home when I find myself lost in a strange land. So when I begin a prayer by saying “Lord,” it reminds me that my place is one of servitude and of worship.

The room is quiet. The prayer that’s been waiting finally comes close, and I begin to write.

I wonder sometimes how keeping this prayer journal has changed me. Perhaps I’ve become a little more understanding, a little stronger when facing things I would rather not have had to face. Certainly my understanding of God has grown. But it wasn’t until recently that I realized what this journal has really given me: It has taught me how to pray.

It’s as if my whole life I’ve been trying to learn a language, and it wasn’t until I started to write that I could finally speak it. I can name things now and fully recognize them for what they are. When I see something good, I can write, “Alleluia, that is God-given.” In my anger, I can write, “This, God, is not what you planned for us.” And when I look back and find that my prayers have been answered (always diagonally, never in the way I expected), I can understand it as God’s intention.

I finish my prayer.

Sometimes I’ll look back on what I’ve written before, but tonight I close my journal and put it away. The prayer doesn’t end, though. As I turn off the light and finally slip back into sleep, the prayer stays with me, echoing into the last of my thoughts.

About the Author

Margaret Schmidt is a graphic and production assistant at Eerdmans Publishing. She lives in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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