Pray Continually

As you may have guessed, I am a words girl.

I love savoring them as they roll off a page, through my eyes and into my imagination.

I love listening hard for them and feeling the fiery spark when they resonate in my soul.

I love stringing and restringing them together until they feel just right.

I love sending them off into the big, beautiful world as a force for good.  For truth.  For love.

And then there’s prayer.

Oh, yes, sure, when I’m “on” in Bible study or grace-saying or goodnight-benedictioning, I can rock some prayer words like the good preacher’s kid that I am.

But alone with Jesus, I’m almost always speechless.

Pray continually (I Thessalonians 5:17)

Yes.

But sometimes prayer is messy for a girl who likes tightly woven words.

Sometimes it’s hearing the pain behind a story and just sitting with Jesus in the heaviness of it.  And letting him hold the heavy.

Sometimes it’s holding hands with sisters praying in Creole and feeling the thick, undeniable presence of Jesus and saying just “yes” because your brain doesn’t understand the words but your soul knows they are right.

Sometimes it’s walking into a situation with Jesus-eyes and being open to seeing things differently.

Sometimes it’s just one word.  Hold.  Help.  Jesus.

Sometimes it’s straight silence.  Hard, focused silence that brings you to the end of yourself.  To the end of your words.

Sometimes it’s a victory fist and tears of joy.

A few times for me, it’s been pictures.  Pictures that I want to wrap in beautiful words but can’t because they are not meant for sharing.  They are just for that still, vulnerable moment.

Sometimes it’s hearing a word and getting up out of your seat to go do (or say) something very specific.  I love when this happens.  And also I hate it, because I’m a wreck that it will be crazy-awkward.  Friends, sometimes prayer is awkward.  Sometimes following Jesus is awkward.

And sometimes when you finally say yes, the words coming from your own mouth surprise you because one second ago, alone with Jesus, you were speechless.  And maybe, just maybe, those Jesus-words are exactly what somebody else needs to hear.

And so.

Whether you are a words girl or not, know that words aren’t the only way that prayer looks.

It looks like hope.  Like authenticity.  Like openness.  Like obedience.

And sometimes, to be fair, like groaning or crazy-awkwardness that, in the hands of an infinitely gracious God, end up beautiful.

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But God

We’re singing about grace this morning.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace.

And here’s the thing about grace.

It tastes all the sweeter when you’re really and truly convinced that you don’t deserve it, that you didn’t do anything to earn it.

In fact, that’s what makes it grace.

Once upon a time I didn’t know the wretchedness of my own heart.

I was a good girl, a rule-follower, a perfectionist.

I grew up knowing about Jesus, knowing all the right answers.

And still

I was dead in my trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).

My righteousness, my striving, my efforts would never be enough.

But God

Gracious and compassionate, abounding in love,

This God snatched me up out of my self-righteous striving and set me free.

Free from finding my identity in what I’ve done, free into living my true identity as Beloved.

Free from running hard to prove myself, free into abundant, extravagant rest.

Free from fear of not being enough, of not doing enough, free into confidence that Jesus paid it all.

Free from red-hot anger that feels justified in the moment, free into honestly seeing my own brokenness and feeling empathy.  Free into love.

It all catches me a little breathless again this morning.

This story I’ve heard thousands of times, this utter dependence and absolute need for rescue.

And this grace.

This marvelous, infinite, matchless grace.

Grace that shines light into darkness.

Grace that breathes life into dead hearts.

Grace that is greater than all our sin.