“There are no story-less prayers,” Eugene Peterson writes. “Story is to prayer what the body is to the soul – the circumstances in which it takes place… story-making is creative work – demanding intense and personal involvement.” (Answering God).
When I want insight, wisdom, or encouragement to pray what Peterson calls “our primal speech,” I look to the wise who have gone before us, those ancients or contemporaries who know how to pray because they know to pray. Thus, here are some quotes from Peterson’s fine little book on prayer (I highly recommend):
“We prepare to pray – not by composing our prayers, but by composing ourselves.”
“The language of prayer is forged in the crucible of trouble… language gets its start under the pressure of pain. Our first word is a wail… all to get us what we need to survive…”
“Prayer is language of the people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe or hope that God can get them out… [therefore] Prayer without ceasing is not a strict ascetical regimen but a “watchful recognition” of the trouble we are in.”
The Story of Your Prayer
What might be the story of your prayer today – the story of your prayer life? Whether absent, cryptic, or exuberant – whether silent, violent, or exhausted, all prayer has a story, and we have a great listener.
In the wonderful paradox of God, we find Him to be both the subject and object of prayer; He is the listener and the inspirer of prayer, for prayer eventually matures from being all about us – to being all about Him. And yet, we do not lose our value to the story simply because we find ourselves displaced from our selfish perch. The story cannot be told (prayer cannot be prayed) without us, though it really isn’t about us in the end.
May you find these words ready for your own prayer today:
Teach me to tell Our Story
Am I a silent author, or a speechless fool of an untold tale?
Am I waiting to compose my story,
Or am I struggling to compose myself?
What is the story I have?
can you help me say it to myself in the safe dark of solitude,
can I share these secrets with your Holy self,
can it be uttered to another soul?
This story started who-knows-where to find me who-knows-here;
didn’t it have its primal headwaters in your presence?
didn’t it start to trickle from your springs of living water?
Teach me to tell my story:
to tell of its beginnings and middles and ends and endlessnesses
of winding journeys and circuitous routes
of labyrinths and mazes and puzzles.
Teach me to tell our story:
of subject and object and action,
of lost and forgotten and remembered,
of finding you finding me, with you.
May this count for prayer:
A prayer about prayer
A prayer looking for its story
And finding its Storyteller.
For more, see “Prayers of Life.”