Like prayer

May 7, 2009

I come to this blog, this “place” on the internet, with the words and hopes and fears that build up in me, and I pour those words (and sometimes the hopes and fears) out.  I come here the way I used to come to prayer.

I used to pray so easily.  It was like talking to a friend, a lover: “Did you see that, God?  Promise me that you won’t let me act that way toward anyone.”  Or, “Those clouds are amazing.  Thanks for that.”

And sometimes it was longer, more intentional, more prayer-ful, I suppose.  I would talk about my hurts and hopes and joys with a sure sense that someone was listening, that someone cared.  I thought I could feel the listening.

Me and God, it felt like this:


Then came those days where every single prayer I offered was a “please, please, please,” or a “help us, help us, help us,”  and then, “no, no, no, no.”  I always knew the answer could be no – if you grow up with my religious background, someone tells you this, that your prayers may not be answered in the way you want them to be answered.  But I guess I thought I’d get some indication of why the answer was no, some inkling that would help me make sense of a great loss.

I didn’t.

You know the ten questions James Lipton asks on Inside the Actors’ Studio? Number ten is this: “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”  I can’t answer that question.  I’ve tried.  I’ve racked my heart and brain and I can’t even imagine what answer would satisfy me.  It’s not just Teddy.  Losing Teddy is my personal great grief, but it’s just one grief among many in the world.  I can’t think of an answer for all of them besides “oops,” which isn’t satisfactory at all.

These days, my relationship to God feels more like this:

I don’t pray often, but I still pray.  I still bang on that door and yell words of hope and fear (and sometimes anger) at it, for others and for myself, but it’s not conversational now, not easy, and I miss the ease.   I miss the sense of being listened to.

It’s not tearing me up inside the way I thought it would, though.  Perhaps this is because I pour my words out here.  I send bits of me out into the great, wide sea of words and symbols that is the internet, and I sense a thrum of listening.  And my words find other words, find your words, and connect and swell, and I change from that, mostly, I think, for the better.  I studied medieval saints’ lives, so I know mystical when I see it, and sometimes writing here comes close.

I don’t know who locked the door, me or God, or if I’ll wake up some day and decide that I no longer believe in God, or if I’ll come to a new understanding of who or what God is, or  if someday I’ll stomp up to the door, ready to pound on it, and find it wide open.  Whatever happens, I think I’m okay with it, which is a strange and probably heretical thing to say about one’s Christian faith.  I’m glad burning at the stake is outlawed.  And perhaps I’m praying now, and God is here, too, and this is my way under the door.



  1. Just wanted to share that I greatly respect your honest discussion of how grief has affected your belief system. The image of the door was powerful. For me, the way I approach prayer will forever be different. And that’s OK.

  2. I enjoyed this take on prayer. I find my own praying has become wordless more often than before, read my heart. But you are right that what you bring and say here is listened to closely and carefully.

  3. Beautiful description. I too feel isolated from the God I thought I knew. My perspective on our relationship (His and mine) and His relationship with all people has changed dramatically since B.W. died. I wish you could feel “the listening” too.

  4. I don’t think I fully understood the meaning of prayer until Ezra died. Before prayer was habit, now prayer pours directly from my heart.

  5. My relationship to prayer changed entirely. Before I prayed for things to happen or not happen, now I just pray for the strength to deal with whatever does happen.

  6. Maybe each of us reading your words, holding you from afar, are a part of God listening? Perhaps we’re here to keep that door from shutting completely. I think we are all a part of God, of Source… at least that’s how I experience God. Not as something separate from me and all-powerful, all-knowing. But as me, and you, everything within us and outside of us. Listening to each other.

  7. Oh wow. This is the first time I’ve come across your blog and this post was one of those “Yes. Oh yes” moments. Every single word I have thought and would’ve said if I could have managed to articulate. I want to find my way under that door – I hope I can.

  8. Love this entry. I don’t think I ever felt that close a connection to God (LOVE those images!), but definitely felt that door close. I’m (loosely) Catholic, though. And almost immediately after holding my dead baby daughter felt a visceral connection to Mary’s loss of her son — and to anyone now who loses a child, in any way, at any age.
    I still pray, but find that I don’t ask for much anymore. I do a lot of thanking for the things I used to take for granted – the dinner on the plate, friends, family. But I can’t seem to ask – I’ve become disillusioned with the process, I think…

    Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day…

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