Prayer is the Conversation of a Lifetime

Margaret Guenther writes in The Practice of Prayer, “The practice of prayer is the work of a lifetime, touching every aspect of our life, from the search for identity to the challenge of vocation to the acceptance of death. It takes us through the heights, the depths, and the desert—to say nothing of the occasional swamp.” Prayer is never a quick conversation—no matter how long it lasts for us. Because God is always speaking, prayer never ends. In fact, in prayer, we are simply jumping in, adding our two cents to what has already been said.

Prayer is a fact of life. Like birth and death, puberty, pimples, and periods, marriage and those mid-life crises, there is prayer. If we are to make it through these moments and those described by Guenther, then we will need to pray. Even when we cannot find the words, we bow our heads to acknowledge the presence of God that is so desperately needed. We put our sweaty hands together so that we don’t wring them. We get on our knees to keep us from pacing the floor. We close our eyes with the hope that things will have changed when we open them. Because it cannot be what it looks like.

We open our mouths and reality sets in. To pray is to acknowledge that there is still work to be done, not covered by doctors and lawyers, community and government leaders, family and friends. No, we are going to need God for this one and the one after that and the one after that. Praying hands say that there are some things that we cannot do, that there are solutions beyond our reach.

“God, can You get that down for me.” My arms are too short and not a likely substitute.

Prayer is also the story of our lives. If we could recall, we would note that there has been a prayer at every juncture, at every function. Prayer shows up in all seasons and for all occasions of our lives. We have talked to God about it all, and God has talked us through it all.

And yet prayer is larger than our lives. The words of this world may consume us but the language of prayer opens the door to another. We pray to the God who is not bound by our time or human circumstances, who will work with us and for us through all of life’s time.

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 Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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