I grew up quiet in the choir loft of a small Lutheran church.
Here in Minnesota, we have a lot of Scandinavian Lutheran folks, and I love being among them. We can belt out the old hymns and put our hands together for new worship songs. Lutherans love potluck suppers and make a mean hot dish. We have sweet and wild memories of church summers, mission trips, Bible camp on the lake, and Wednesday night youth group. Lutherans are the first to lend a hand and the last to leave (probably on account of our long, extended, drawn-out-in-the-parking-lot goodbyes.)
And when we say we’ll pray for you, we mean it.
Growing up in my little Lutheran church meant being polite to our elders, living kindly and being concerned about our neighbors. It meant loving and being loved by generations, all worshiping in the same building. It also meant being quiet, unless we were playing Sardines at the youth group lock-in. It meant sharing the love of Jesus in an understated, quiet way. It meant praying on our insides, out loud only before bed and meals.
In high school I attended a non-denominational Christian leadership camp. My guidance counselor, who was a faith mentor to me, signed me up to attend after seeing a spark in my heart for Jesus that I didn’t yet recognize. On the first day, I was late to arrive (no surprise to those who know me) and when I got there, everyone was already assembled in the auditorium to kick off the weekend. I walked in, took a seat, and God bowled me over.
The speaker in front was the camp coordinator, and he’d offered to begin our weekend in prayer. He opened his mouth, and words poured out like I’d never heard. This man was praying like Someone was actually listening, like Someone was going to answer. I had never heard prayer like this before, and I’m sure my jaw actually dropped.
Hearing prayers spoken out loud to God was life-changing.
Decades later, I love to pray. Talking to God is like breathing to me, conversation with Him non-ceasing in my head and heart. I’m constantly thanking, asking, chattering, remembering. I just finished writing a book of prayers for moms, and reading along here at (in)courage with our book study about the power of prayer.
My children are learning that we can talk to God all the time, about anything. Four-year-old Sam offers prayers that seem wise beyond his years, and when two-year-old Josie folds her dimpled toddler hands, I’m a puddle of mommy goo. They pray at bedtime and before meals, yes, but also in the van on the way to preschool. We pray when there’s a problem. We pray when we are thankful. We pray when we have questions. We write our prayers. My kids are praying and learning that their words are heard.
Many aspects of prayer still perplex me, but I do know that He hears us.
In small Lutheran churches on the prairies of the Midwest, in huge mega-churches in the middle of downtown cities, in quiet suburban living rooms, in our deepest heart of hearts. He hears you, friend. We can pray, no matter the state of our hearts or where we stand. He loves hearing from us in any moment.
Over the years, the ways I pray have changed, but the One to whom they rise has remained the same. Our God is the same God that walked in Eden, that flooded the earth and saved Noah, that sent His Son to be born in a manger and later took that Son home, that blinded Saul and turned his heart to Paul, that meets us today on our own roads to Damascus.
No matter where you walk today, let Him hear you. Whisper a prayer and, if you simply cannot, know that He even understands what’s in the silence. He’s got you, friend.