A Simple Prayer


My ten-year-old son Alex and I waited for the show to start. The whole family had traveled to see my daughter Riley dance in her end-of-the-year college recital. She was cast in three pieces, including a solo, which was a huge honor for a freshman. I confessed to Alex that I was nervous for her because it was such a big deal. He told me he was nervous too and that he’d said a prayer. Loving that he’d said a prayer for his sister, I told him that I too had said a prayer. Then Alex said, “I prayed that Riley kicks ass.” I nodded and tried not to laugh. “Good prayer,” I said. After Riley completed her solo, dancing beautifully, Alex held up his hands in the dark for a double high five. Now we could breathe easier and enjoy the last fun and upbeat number of Riley’s dances.

I realize some people might be taken aback by Alex’s prayer – keep in mind he is the youngest of four siblings – but I thought his prayer was awesome. He felt comfortable enough in his relationship to God to just say what he was thinking and feeling. He wanted his sister to do well and be strong and confident. He didn’t edit himself or try to make his prayer sound pretty or ostentatious. Simple and direct, that’s what he expressed. He invited God into the situation and asked for help for another. In doing so, he also calmed himself because he was sharing his anxiety with God. 

As adults, sometimes we get tripped up making prayer complicated because we believe it should be time-consuming and high-minded. We fail to pray because we think we don’t know how to pray. We choose not to pray because we are mad at God about our circumstances and think we shouldn’t express those feelings. We don’t think God is willing or able to be involved in our lives in the present, so we don’t bother. 

I have a friend who is going through some tough stuff right now. She said she thinks her mother is upset with God. I totally got that because as a mama bear myself, I’d rather go through the fire than watch one of my children suffer. And I know that will continue far into their adulthood, just like her mom. My response to her: God can handle it – all of it. The seeking, the pleading, the rage, the desperation. God is present even when we choose to ignore him. Even when we are so tied in knots, and we cannot express ourselves at all. It’s okay to pray in short bursts, through tears, or in screams. We don’t need to censor our emotions. Honesty is important in relationships and that’s no less true in our relationship with God. The old adage “give it all to God” is true in my opinion – give it ALL to God, every single thought, word, emotion. Period.

My friend has a long road ahead of her. We’ve already started praying, and we will continue to do so. But I think I might just adopt Alex’s prayer for her too. Irreverent – perhaps – but she and I have that kind of relationship. And I know God understands what I mean when I pray, “God please help her kick ass.”    

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