Is it Okay to Pray Out Loud?

I started a conversation on my rigorously conversational blog, Seedlings, to help me think through how things will go here.

Because I've struggled with a few questions... Is it okay to pray out loud? I mean, didn't Jesus say we should pray in secret? And, like unto it, Is it okay to let people comment here, where I pray out loud?

In the end, the decision, the need to answer these questions, has fallen squarely in my lap. After all, people had amazingly heart-felt, different opinions. (And I thank each person for sharing those thoughtful opinions.)

Several things have swayed me though. One is that people have already expressed a sense of feeling encouraged or blessed here. Some have told me so in private emails, some on my other blog, some right here in the comments. To my mind, this is part of the reason we have spiritual gifts and also why we come together to worship. As Paul says, "What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up." (1 Corinthians 14:26)

As a writer, I've already come to terms with what I felt was a very special confirmation to build people up, to "sustain the weary with a word". (Isaiah 50:4) I suppose sometimes I'll only be sustaining myself here, with these words. But I also know that I'm a public person, a writer, called to sustain others through the sharing of my life, my thoughts, my heart, my faith... through words, even those expressed to God in prayer.

And so I'm praying out loud. But not without a bit of fear and trembling. I am not so deceived to think that I couldn't become that pious Pharisee Jesus condemned, praying too louldly and waving my prayer shawl to garner attention. So if you think of it, pray for me, even as I pray here.

Now about whether the comments should be open or closed, Nikki gave me a beautiful picture during that Seedlings conversation. I thank her for that and have decided to share it here...

"...I come from a tradition where much prayer is corporate— we lift together the private intentions of our hearts in words we can sing and speak together. The candles you have on the top of the page are the sort of candles one finds in every almost every Orthodox church. When one enters, one often takes a beeswax candle or two, lighting them and placing them in sand before an icon or in a holder like the one in the photo— always with a prayer, and those prayers are as many and varied as the hands that light and place the candles. Those candles burn, beacons of each individual intention, while the whole church prays and sings in one voice and all of our prayers rise symbolically in the incense that wafts heavenward.

Perhaps your blog is your candle. It's your quiet intention in the midst of our incense cloud of prayers. The beauty of the comments that are in the right spirit is that they become other candles in the holder— the whispered prayers others leave behind when they approach the quiet place you have created. They allow the blog itself to be less about you and your private experience, and more about the ways our experiences of the Holy overlap."

So here I am praying out loud. Quite comfortable if you come in and put a candle beside mine or say "Amen." If I don't talk back, comment back, well, please understand... I did learn something from my Catholic mama's "Shhh...." all those childhood years, when I wanted to talk even as the candles flickered through glass cylinders of emerald, ruby, sapphire.

"For everything there is a season... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3:7) Lord, give me the wisdom to know the difference.

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Gone is the Frosting

I come out here every day. Write. Or read. Look up at the sky. Just let the visions wash over me. Today...

... today, the wood-winged bushes are this otherworldly, barely-lemon yellow. They are... a baby's breath, sweet, weightless. Or... a faded meringue spilled across the understory. Like air. Light. Lovely. Inspiring. The split maples have lost their red, their orange frostings, licked clean by the wind in a mere day. The forsythia are yet holding on to green, full leaves— denying, spurning winter's cool advances.

Why am I here? Lick me clean, great Wind of the universe. Sweeten my soul, Breath of a Babe once come among us. Let me not miss, as Eugene Peterson says, "this invasion of Life into my life..." (p.13, Whole Prayer) Run your fingers through my soul, until... gone is the faux, the illusions, the frosting.

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Running again. At night, again. Looking up at the stars, I see the "seven sisters". So mother used to call that smudge of a mini dipper that is just now fighting the city's ambient light.

And I get dizzy. Dizzy when I run this way... looking up. Breaks my stride. Makes me sway like a drunken man. In my delirium, I ponder... You.

How is it I can see you in less than a thousand points of light, here where the streetlamps are too insistent... and the sidewalks too broken...and someone has waited too long to push her leaves into the street, leaving the path moldering, dirt-strewn.

Nonetheless. I do. See. You. And I am dizzy. A drunken runner, swaying to a child's song. Twinkle, twinkle. I'm reeling under the stars.



The wood floor shone, golden amber. Swept. For the first time in... months? It was finally accessible.

I had rearranged the furniture. Put one girl's clothes in a new dresser I dragged down from the attic. Alone. (My shoulders still bear the pain.) Cleaned up the toys, put some away for good. Removed the old baby books, well most of them, except a few that are still favorites with these beyond-baby girls of mine.

Above the "new" dresser, I put up Eldest Daughter's note-holder. A horizontal bit of wood with clothespins, in rainbow color. Clothespins that would hold photos, I suddenly decided. I found a moody picture of the two girls, pensive by the side of a misty lake. I found one photo full of sisterly hugging mischief. A Christmas picture. Two of the girls picking strawberries as wee little ones. I LOVED each girl even as I swept through with changes I knew they wouldn't understand, nor welcome.

I was not disappointed. Well, in the sense that the girls reacted as I knew they would. Youngest girl came in speechless. Oldest child wept on her bed. Long, long sighs and tears for the dust I'd swept from the corners, for the loss of something, perhaps she wasn't even sure what.

And I thought of you, Lord. You with your broom. You rearranging things beyond my understanding. And I thought of me. Me. Weeping on my bed.

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Prayer to the Moon God

Ran last night. Up the street, around the corner. Under the black tree branches, which were stark against a misty sky. I like running in the dark. Moist air, night air. Silence.

Back home, couldn't make myself go into the house, so I made my way down the side path, to the little yard. Took the red sled and lay under the pine tree. Moist air, night air. Smell of dead leaves. And the moon above, presiding over silence.

When I finally went to leave, the moon had risen, a full orb cradled between the arms of the maples. Silent night. And I thought of all the people through all the ages who have prayed to the moon, or the stars, the sun or the crops, the earth and its creatures.

I understood the mistake. Understood the urge. There, as I stood under the beautiful moon, red sled in hand. Silent night. Yes, holy night.

How lovely are the things you have made, my God of the moon. My God over the moon.

"Bless the LORD, O my soul...
you stretch out the heavens like a tent...
you ride on the wings of the wind...
O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures." (from Psalm 104)



What is Breath Prayer?

Morning was making it's way, slow, into my room. Was it 5:00 am? It seemed so. Except for the breathing of my spouse beside me, the whole house sat quiet.

And I was drifting in my thoughts. About breath prayer.

"Breathe in a name for God," I remembered Adele Calhoun's counsel from her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. "Breathe out a deep desire of your heart."

In the stillness of my room, where night still clung to the walls, trying to hide from day's advance, I had no particular desires. But soon a small prayer drifted in.

I breathed in... Lover of my Soul

I breathed out... give me lovingkindness.

It was a prayer given for the day, before the day came. A prayer I knew, upon later waking to true day, that I would need. Busy day, Little One up early and too chatty, me feeling like I want to be alone. Everything sounding too loud, looking too bright, feeling too constrictive. Me wanting to pick at people or push them out. Leave me alone!

Breath prayer. A simple prayer to repeat in time of need. To remind me, in a single cycle of breathing, that God is "nearer to [me] than [my] own breath" (Calhoun, p.205) Breath prayer. A simple prayer to remember who God is and what God might do.

Lover of my Soul, give me lovingkindness.

Lover of my Soul, give me lovingkindness.

Lover of my Soul, give me lovingkindness...

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In the Garden

I saw you today, Lord, at 4:46 eastern time.
Saw you in the red fire of the blueberry bushes
pressed up against the edge of the garden.

Your glory luminescent in the leaves,
in the infinite droplets everywhere hanging
and falling.

As if this weren't enough, I saw you
hiding beneath the thorns— one full,
barely ripe raspberry, calling

"where are you?"

So I put you in my mouth. What else
could I do, but take you in communion.


Tired of Dying

Thank you for sleep last night, Lord. But I woke up tired. Tired of dying.

I went back over the last few years in my little church community. Helen, 18 months old, died... liver cancer. Rick, passed away, age 43 (he told me he wanted to do something daring for his 40th birthday; two days later he was diagnosed with leukemia). Susan, early 40's. She didn't want to leave all her children. Cancer had its way. John, early 40s, inoperable brain cancer... the world lost one of its premiere software developers. Tim, great architect, late 40s... and the year before he died of bladder cancer, he took me aside to say, "You should go to seminary, you've got the mind for it." Pete, 60s (I think), mowed the lawn and his heart gave out. Zulli, late 50s (?), taking care of so many children in this county. Lung cancer took her breath away, swift and furious.

I am


of all this dying,


Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:14)

Yeah, I know.

Where, O death is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
(1 Cor 15:55)

So I've heard.

But don't you get tired, Lord? Tired of all this dying?

Jesus began to weep. (John 11:35)

There, there... shh... shh... my Lord. Put your head on my shoulder. We can weep together. And I will tell you a story...

"And I heard a....voice from the throne saying...'and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more...'" (Rev 21:3,4)

It's a good story, isn't it, Lord. There now, let's sleep on that for a while. Together we can sleep, and dream.

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I am Your Joan Didion

Remember, God? Remember Joan Didion? How, after her husband died, she felt so lost? Because it had been an easy thing between them. Every little thought shared. Decision weighed. Sigh heard. And suddenly he was gone. There was no one to listen.

Stunning loneliness.

Paul says to "pray without ceasing". And I know I do. I am your Joan Didion. Every little thought shared. Decision weighed. Sigh heard. Like tonight, when I'm thinking of my dear eldest one, red-cheeked, bleary-eyed, coughing.

Do I want you to heal her? It's not so much a request as the sharing of my heart. You made her body smart. Made it to be self-healing. So I'm not asking anything particular of you.


I just want you to hear me on this.

For I am your Joan Didion.

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Twice Given

I talked to Charity yesterday. So, so good to hear her voice. What could I say? We chatted about all things physical— the pain of her cancer, the never-ending complications. We talked about my book. (God bless her, she wanted to talk about me.) I wanted to give something to her. A snippet of prayer.

The night before, I'd been reading A Sacred Sorrow, reading the Davidic Laments section. This is where I took my little thread of prayer from, the little raggedy bit of hope that I wanted to extend across all the miles between us.

Then this morning, I came downstairs and my bible was open on the table. It was open and the little prayer snippets I'd seen in Card's book were there, underlined and staring up at me from the page. So now, these are the prayers, twice given to me and shared yesterday with Charity... and I turn them back to you, Yahweh, Mighty God...

Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God....

But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in your hand..."
(Psalm 31:5, 14-15)

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Recently, on my other blog, I asked people to pray for my friend Charity. Many people assented. One person said, "I can't pray." Completely understandable, as she is an atheist.

I appreciated the honesty of those words, "I can't pray." And what followed too... "May I blow wishful kisses instead? I'm sure God would know how to interpret them..."

These words have been with me ever since. I'm sure God would know how to interpret them. Interpret the wishes, the kisses, the feelings, the hopes, the aches, the sorrows.

This is a place for all that stuff. A place where God must come as interpreter. A place where I will struggle with what to say to the Lover of my soul. A place for prayer, and a place to say, "I can't pray". A place to consider the nature of prayer itself. It's just a little journal, really. But you're welcome to read over my shoulder. And sometimes to say, "Amen."

(Note, on November 26: It seems good to also make this a place for devotion, since so much of my prayer life flows from different aspects of devotion... like the discipline of solitude I engage in at my Secret Place, or the practice of scripture study, and even the commitment to Sabbath. So it is. Love Notes to Yahweh: a place for prayer & devotion.)