Messy Prayers

He had such a great idea with that little grey and black marker — monogramming his own plastic box, a perfect space to claim sole ownership — until it slid out of his hands and onto the kitchen table. Permanently marred. Not like the curtains or towel bar or toilet paper rod. None of which have fared well under the weight of four sets of hands that all have their own level of clumsy.

We’ll fix those soon.


I crawl up the stairs at night, each step tempting me to linger over another item that’s been left undone (and another stain on the stairway carpet to clean). Emails I haven’t sent and books I need to reserve from the library for them and that load of laundry I forgot to do that has her last pair of clean jeans. Someday five won’t feel quite like five and I’ll finally have time to spare and that list will be all complete.



And then she gives me that look and I see years behind those eyes that flash, dark and scared and lost, at me. They aren’t entirely unfamiliar. She wants me. She wants Him. She wants a healing that will lift her out of a history that seems on some days to be distant and on others, like today, to hover and cloud her. But yet she pulls back and hides behind herself. She’s afraid and not ready. Not today. She can’t go there. Yet. So today anger is her best attempt at expression.

The house, the list, the hearts, they all linger, incomplete. The bathroom cabinet hangs on its hinges as if to remind me that not everything will ever be in its place and I find myself responding as if my heart should, as a result, be in neutral. I continue to treat God as if He functions like me — as if He is only ripe and ready to move deep into my heart when everything rests as it should, both externally and within me.


Then there was that morning where I’m all tied up on the inside — the stacks of books that need to go back on the shelf and the medical and nutritional trouble-shooting for one of our children and the eight hours of a day ahead of me when I’m not sure I can handle even one — and His whisper breaks into that mess of thinking:

I covered myself in your sin. I wore it. I bore it. I’m that near, He speaks out from a study I’m doing in Song of Solomon*.

And I realize oh-so-subtly that I’ve come to see His nearness to me like a tether ball: near when I’m worth being near and distant when I deserve it, back-and-forth all day long, swinging around just like my fickle heart. I discover that I am seeing Him like I have seen myself and that I expect of Him only what the best of humanity might provide. No wonder I feel near to Him when I feel good about me and “sense” Him to be distant when I don’t like who I am.

Enter the tiny prayers.

The part of me that subtly expects God to act like He were of flesh — to act like my flesh, to be exact — waits for that glorious moment when I feel God and God would be pleased with me, to pray. I take the divine, approach it as I would a human and then I call it communicating with God.

But prayer is meant to be guttural.


In the moment.

And, yes, it’s meant to happen always. If we see prayer as what He told us it is — if we start with His definition and scrap our translations — it doesn’t need to wait until after the list is checked and the hair bows are tied and the Christmas-picture versions of us are ready for Him.

So, the cabinet door busts. It’s just an accident but I scold him in anger and my insides know I’m wrong and I get to turn — right then — to Him. She just won’t budge and I can see her heart fissure as clear as day and I talk — right then  to Him. Six a.m. greets me with the reminder of a list that will take me until 2015 to finish and the baby fusses and I haven’t even hit daylight yet and I stop — right then — and talk to Him.



We too easily treat prayer like it’s a list of platitudes tossed in the direction of a God who, at any given moment, might be near or far depending upon just how open our heart is to Him. We take the crazy beauty of a divine covenant that rests upon who He is and instead make it about who we’re not. And then we’re surprised when we can’t rev ourselves up for the kind of prayer that originates from this twisted place.

He didn’t come for my best moments.

He came to whisper into the day when all of it broke and hung, limply, off the wall.

Everything in Its Place

Tiny whispers. Tiny prayers. Itty-bitty moments when we breathe to Him change us more than circumstantial “breakthrough”.

We are made in the minutes. The most mundane part of my day today has great potential for His glory.

Up the stairs and down and that two minute walk to the mailbox and the three minute coffee break at work and the seven minutes in the carpool line … they are pregnant. Inviting. They are asking: will you look at who He is in this moment and — right now — talk to Him, or will you treat it like just another I’m-not-quite-at-that-very-best-when-I-feel-like-I-could-show-Him-my-face kind of moment?

This is the mess of life and we are the inn on that unsuspecting night.

Messy people pray messy-in-the-moment prayers.

And He likes it.


Making it Practical: Adoration is my favorite form of tiny prayers. As a recovering worst-case-scenario thinker, I need His Word to re-shape my thinking. There is no better time than now, the beginning of a new month, to pick up this little habit that could do some serious work on your insides. (Here is a link to March’s adoration calendar.) There is a community of us adoring Him over here, and a few posts below that unpack the notion of adoration:

Why I Adore

Showing Up

For Your Continued Pursuit: *Song of Solomon 5:2 | Song of Solomon 1:5 | 2 Corinthians 5:21 | 1 Timothy 1:15-16 | Isaiah 53:5 | 1 Peter 2:24-25 | Colossians 1:19-23

Photos compliments of Mandie Joy.