What to Say When You Don’t Want to Open Your Mouth

“Praying is easy. Talking to God isn’t complicated. Anyone can do it. In fact, everyone should do it.”

“No appointment is necessary. God is always listening, always available. Just talk. It changes everything.”

At one time or another, I’ve said all of these things or some naïve but well-meaning version of them to family members and friends, church members and complete strangers. Forgive me. Prayer is not always easy. Prayer is not just talking. It is not best practiced by the loquacious, the extroverts, the early-morning risers, the people-persons.

Prayer is not about personality, temperament, or the time of day. Some people don’t pray better than others. There is no judge of petitions made to heaven because prayer conversation is not a competition. I’ve seen no sign that reads, “The person who says the most prayers wins.” But, if there is, then I have fallen behind. And right now, I have no desire to catch up.

Go ahead. Pass me. Or better still, I’ll pass on talking to God. These days, my mouth is just not in the right place. No further comment.

Prayer is not just about words and their placement. It is not best accomplished by the well-spoken or those well-versed in the art of prayer. Prayer is not about the sound of our words, our pacing or posture, because you can have the best words and still not be able to use to them to make sense of your life. What if you cannot get the words out?

What do you do when they won’t come out and you are quite content to let them stay there?

Talking to God all the time is not that simple. The nature of the conversation cannot be summarized in a tagline, motto, or mantra. Speaking of such, I was recently given a journal with a cover that read: “It’s a tough world. Stay prayed up.”

That day, I agreed. Today, I don’t. Those words assume that I can store up my petitions when my prayers are running low. Or that I can be someone so full of prayer that none of the world’s troubles can get a word in edgewise. Neither is true, though it sounded good and at least the person who purchased the journal for me was sold on it.

But what if you can’t even say the name of God? What do you do when you shake your head and nothing comes out? When are things are better left unsaid? When does it only feel like they are? What if the last thing you want to do is tell God all about it?

I don’t know. I am hoping that writing this is a start.

Reverend Starlette Thomas* is the interim 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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