The Speed of Prayer


I have one speed: fast. If it were possible, I would go faster. As a workaholic (the first step is admission), it is hard for me to feel a sense a meaning without being busy. Not for the sake of feeling important but for the drive to accomplish. I live by checklists and the more that I get done in a day, the better the day has been. I have taken the admonition to “redeem the time” totally out of context (Ephesians 5:16).

Sometimes, I feel guilty when friends want to come over or do the things that normal people do. Perhaps, this need to produce is due to birth order (I am numero uno), the fact that I am actually an introvert and a proud loner, or the primal fear of living a life that did not matter or produce meaning for others. So, when they ask how I am doing, I usually say, “Busy.” And it’s true. In my head, I am thinking, “I’m trying to change the world over here so I’ll have to take a raincheck.” I say it so often that they now associate me with the word. Selah.

In my role at the D.C. Baptist Convention, I teach and train lay leadership to include deacons, trustees, ushers, and Sunday school directors and teachers. My official title is Minister to Empower Congregations, and recently, I was invited to lead a retreat for deacons of a member church. I would invite participates to look at the heart of a servant.

Preparing for the retreat actually stressed me out and it wasn’t until I was driving onto the property at the Hallowood Retreat and Conference Center in Dickerson, Maryland that I began to relax. Maybe it was the lake, the trees, the labyrinth or strategically placed park benches that seemed to capture the grandeur of the sacred space from every angle. But while walking back to the conference room during a break, these words came to me: “Nothing travels faster than the speed of prayer.”

It struck me because though we had intentional times of prayer, this was not the focus of our retreat. I was not in dialogue with myself about prayer. I wasn’t even thinking of what to write next for Coracle. Still, the conversation started and I shook my head in agreement, thankful for the revelation. It spoke to the heart of me.

It seems that while I was tracking the timing of each exercise, group discussion, and personal reflection, there was another time that I needed to be made aware of. While the speed of light is said to travel 299,792,458 meters per second, there is something faster: the speed of prayer. The speed of Starlette is a non-issue when I realize that there is no distance between my mouth and God’s ear. I don’t need to do more; I need to pray more and that’s not something that I can put on a checklist.

smcneillReverend Starlette McNeill* 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 Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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