One of my girlfriends invites me to yoga and I say yes immediately. Before I even know the time of the class, I am finding my Nike tights and wrapping my hair into a bun. I am checking the trunk of the car for my mat.
I agree to go to a hot yoga class for the simple fact that I don’t like yoga. Not even a little bit. The breathing. The stillness. The presence. All of it makes me nauseous and panicky.
I walk into every class always optimistic that this will be the day when I fall in love with yoga. When I become one of those people who can’t go a day without getting on the mat and knocking out a few downward dogs.
It’s always the same pattern though: I’m only on the mat for 10 minutes, in the stickiness of a hot yoga studio, before I want the class to be over. I wonder why I agreed to this.
I mean, what is yoga to a woman who is impatient and squirmish? What is a yoga to a woman who is thinking 5 hours ahead and 2 years back always?
So it would make you wonder: why spend the money? Why take the class? If you already know you’ll hate it, why go? Why submit yourself to the torture?
Plain and simple: just because I don’t feel like doing something isn’t reason enough to not do it. There’s a mountain of things in my life that I don’t feel like doing and I do them anyway. Yoga is just a 60-minute reminder that if I push past my feelings then something better will win.
The whole yoga class, my mind is on prayer. We are pushing up into positions and holding a posture. We are balancing and my mind is racing with the thought of knees-on-the-ground prayer. Don’t mistaken me for the holy-- I wasn’t actually praying during the class. I was rolling around in my mind why prayer is so hard for me. As we keep moving posture to posture, and I try to remember to breathe, I keep thinking that this restlessness and desire to move which I feel in yoga class somehow mirrors how I feel when I go to pray.
It’s the same restless, I-don’t-want-to-do-this feeling I get with both yoga and prayer.
I’ve only written about prayer once before and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve put in this corner of the internet.
But I must reiterate that: I’ve only written about it once. I’m the farthest thing from an expert. I like to write about the things I have decent experience with and prayer just feels like a practice that fails me. I pray, yes. But I wish my prayers felt more active, less forced. More powerful, less staged.
There are three people on my heart today who need something-- one wants a baby, one wants a love story, one wants a miracle. And I keep thinking of these extravagant ways to pray for them. I keep thinking that I should devise some plan that will keep me in prayer mode and I can then be able to measure how much I prayed. How long and how hard and how diligently I prayed for them.
And while my brain runs wild with ideas, this little voice inside of me speaks, “Why don’t you just start? Why don’t you cease thinking about the idea of praying for people and just say their name out loud? What is holding you back?”
Fear, I guess. It’s not even fear that my prayers won’t be answered.
For years, I told people I was praying for them but never really doing it. It was like a default answer when something would happen, “Oh, oh, I’ll pray for you right now.” No, those prayers never burned in my palms or my brain. No, I never cried out in desperation to God.
I guess, as a result of years not doing what I said I was doing, I wondered if people didn't really pray for me either. I wonder if they faked the motions too.
It’s a combination of that and the fear that my faith will never grow. That my prayers will never be bold enough. That I’ll never be one of those warriors-- one of those people who can write the answered prayers down and, at the end of each day, cry out in awe of the faithfulness of God.
I want proof to hand people that God is working but my fear stands in the way.
I’ll hold you in the light.
That’s what the Quakers say when they want someone to know they’ll be praying. I’ll hold you in the light. I think I really like that. It says without saying it, “I see you.”
I see you.
You’re right here. Your arms might be flailing and your body might be restless but you are right here. The dark might seem endless, but I am holding in the light. All of you might want to give up but there will be light, baby. The light will come.
I’ll hold you in the light. When your faith is failing. And your lungs want to give out. And you don’t understand God-- how he moves and how he operates. And you know what? I don’t get it either. There are those mornings, and those nights, where I want to kick and scream and just give up on God. But where I would go? Where would I go that it wouldn’t be darker?
Sometimes you pray and sometimes you are the prayer.
Your scars aren’t mine until you show them to me.
I have a friend who, for the years leading up to the time he met the love of his life, would pray for this person every time he came across a dime. In change piles. On the sidewalk. In between couch cushions. He would pick it up, mark a “P” on the dime, and then pray for that girl. Short, quick silver prayers.
On the day he asked her to marry him, he dumped out jars and jars full of dimes. Jars and jars full of prayers, said in advance for someone he didn’t even know when he first started praying for her.
I like to think about what it felt like to be that girl, the one with all the jars full of dimes poured all around her, to have someone show her, “I prayed this much for you. I prayed this wide for you. I prayed this thoroughly for you. Even if it was just picking a dime off the ground by the train, it was a thought I drew captive and dedicated it to you.”
What’s more beautiful than someone who holds their own thoughts hostage long enough to draw your name in the lines?
We could be those sorts of people. There isn’t even a need to do something extravagant when it comes to prayer. We don’t even need the dimes. It just requires we show up. We stay when we don’t feel anything. We keep whispering a person’s name out loud until this faith grows inside of us that we are heard.
We are heard. And we are wanted. And we are seen. We are heard. And we are wanted. And we are seen.
I keep thinking I must light a candle. I must posture myself for prayer. But God wants me in the car. He wants in the grocery store. He wants me anywhere that I am standing to just ask him for help. No big productions. No grand proposals. Just him and I and all the honest conversations we’ve yet to have.
Honest conversation with God #1 (AKA prayer):
Make me want you.
I know that sounds like a rap song but it’s all I want to ask of you: make me want you. Make me think about you. Make me draw back to you. Make me want to ask you for help before I go out and seek to stitch my own cape.
Here is my honesty.
Here are my bare bones.
Make me want you.
Make me want you more.