Prayer Is a Good Talking To

Pray-Her

Walter Brueggemann prays these words in an intercession titled “But now you know,”

“You are the one from whom no secret can be hid,
who sees behind all of our piety, pretense and cover up…
and we are the ones with many secrets,
some shameful, some shocking, some risky…
all of them precious to us.
We begin this day with that acknowledgement before you,
you seeing and knowing us,
a perfect match for our hiddenness.”

It is from his prayer book, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth. I own several such books.

I turn to them when the words are lodged too deep in my throat and no amount of cough drops or hot tea will move them. I even try to nudge them, coax them out with the promise that they will never have to say it again. Just come together this one time and pray with me.

I want someone to pray for me. Because I cannot pray for myself. My own words have turned against me. My grandmother’s dead and she is the one who I would turn to. Now, I turn to dead trees, resurrected as pages of this book or another.

I turn the page and say, “Talk back to me.”

I am pacing the floor, opening and closing cabinet and closet doors. I am looking for a way in or a way out of what I am going through, what the entire world is going through. This pandemic, these deaths, political chaos, white Christian nationalism, and all this sickness.

I am tired of shaking my fist at the television and the sky. I have turned one off and tuned another out. Still, I can hear God’s voice, still and small. God has not left me and in that, I realize what faithfulness truly means.

“For better or for worse.” These words sound more like a curse when they do not prevent your marriage from ending, and yet it is the imagery used so often in the Bible when talking of God’s fidelity: bride and bridegroom. It fed the purity culture and took away my teenage appetite for a boyfriend. Because “Jesus was my boyfriend,” right?

Wrong. So much of what I have learned about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was just plain wrong. So now I am talking it out with God, praying about the piety, the appearance of self-righteousness in long dresses and hair coverings. How much did I cover up?

And how much more is being revealed with each passing day inside this house and my own head? You knew me all along and You want to know me still, even when it feels like I am at my worst. That’s it. There, I said it though I had not intended to. But it is not from me to you but the reverse.

Yes, prayer is just that—God giving us a good talking to.

Reverend Starlette Thomas* is 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 praying with her feet.

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