The Eyes of Prayer

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French novelist Gustave Flaubert said, “The art of writing is discovering what you believe.” Writing, then, can be an exploration of one’s faith as I have found a keyboard and screen, paper and pen to be great conversation partners. If you want an answer for why I write—and I suspect the reason for many others—it is this. More than self-reflection, writing provides revelations that I would not have achieved or gathered otherwise.

More than my imagination, writing is my muse. The very act is inspiring; the keys touch me, move me. She is an invited guest that I wish would move in. More than a roommate, we are so close that she must be family. She must be related to me because we sound so much alike.

This gathering of letters are my choir and when I find the right words, strike the right keys, my writing hums. We are holding hands and being directed in an amazing composition. And it is this buzz, this sound, this desire to hear the deepest parts of me that compel me to write.

Flaubert calling it art is a bonus. Writing has been a natural reaction and expression for me since my preteen years. Some played with baby dolls or toy trucks. I, instead, collected words and, while a solitary activity, I have learned over time that I am not alone. I am not repeating what I hear but recording an exchange. I am sharing with God.

Timothy Keller writes in his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, “Prayer is not simply the solitary exploration of your own subjectivity. You are with Another, and he is unique. God is the only person from whom you can hide nothing. Before him you will unavoidably come to see yourself in a new, unique light. Prayer, therefore, leads to a self-knowledge that is impossible to achieve any other way.” Yes, Keller is right. Prayer is more than the folding of hands, the bowing of heads, and the bending of knees. While our eyes are closed, the eyes of prayer are not.

We are not merely repeating or reciting words when we pray; but our mouths are opening a conversation that we would have never seen coming and for which there is no marked door. There is no formula, no key, no set number of steps that will lead us to this knowing. It is not a part of a program, not captured on church bulletins or even pinned down on paper. But, when the words come together, your soul will hum.

When we pray, we are saying words and seeing our flesh in ways we could not have imagined. The eyes of prayer don’t just search us but see us. Prayer is self-discovery; close your eyes and open up to God’s vision of you.

smcneillReverend Starlette Thomas* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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