What Am I Saying?


There is no formula for prayer. There is no right or wrong way to talk to God. Sure, address God with reverence even when yelling at the Divine. “My God!” But there is no way that we can say the right thing all the time; it is not going to come out right when we are under pressure or under attack or under a rock.

There are no steps, no consistent ingredients to this dialogue. Life and words thrown together; it is an experiment. We talk it out and talk it through. Prayer is life strained through the lens of our faith. We don’t know how we are going to come out on the other side.

It does not and frankly, it cannot always come together. Some words will jut out because some experiences stick out more than others. While a conversation, it is not always easy to get the words out. When faith and frustration are mixed together or in my case, a realization that threatens to unravel my confession of faith is found out, it can lead you to question what we are really talking about on Sunday mornings and during midweek Bible study.

I thought that I knew what prayer was, that I knew exactly what to say and how to pray until my faith was tested, until the belief and behaviors of some Christians didn’t add up. Because how do you pray when you are fed up? When you are not pacing the floor but stomping? When you can’t put your hands together or bow your head because both are shaking?

It is hard to pray when you are feeling testy due to the obvious fact that our faith and their works don’t go together. I wasn’t tested by the devil, some man with a well-groomed mustache in a red jumpsuit, but by other believers who dressed up or down on Sundays just like me. I thought that they would do the right thing. But, they didn’t and now, I don’t know what to say to God.

Deep sighs and wide gaps in between sentences like, “What are you doing to me? and “Why is this happening?” I don’t even want to talk about it. Called to vocational ministry, I feel like God is in on it. “These are your people! You knew what they were going to do to me!”

Now I know why the prophets came up with every excuse in the book rather than work with God and God’s people. “Oh, no! Not me! My tongue doesn’t work correctly. Oh, look at the time. I have a meeting at the bottom of this body of water.” Because I would rather “swim with the fishes “or tie my own tongue than to walk with these people, repeating after God.

And if I cannot admit that to God in prayer, then what am I saying?

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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