“I’ve prayed more in one weekend than I think I have in the whole last month altogether,” I blurt as we sit around the campfire, grey smoke and starless night wrapping our faces in darkness. I mean it as a compliment. One of the details that set the Jumping Tandem Retreat apart from so many others I’ve attended is the prayer, woven like a gossamer thread throughout the entire weekend, tying us together with the word-breath of the Holy Spirit.
That said, when Emily suggests in our hotel room early on Saturday morning that we pray together before our sessions, I utter “Okay!” a little too shrilly as I whirl around to face her. She glimpses my wild eyes before I can hide my fear. “Or I could just pray for us,” she offers in a voice delicate as a butterfly’s wing.
So we sit on the edge of her bed and we pray amid wrinkled sheets and rumpled blankets as the radiator whirs hot air. Emily lifts our heart’s desires to Heaven, praying that the Holy Spirit will speak through us; that the women in our sessions will be filled with God and love and hope; that our voices will stay strong and steady.
Surrounded by all these prayer warriors makes me feel inadequate at first. Not just Emily, but Jennifer, Glenda, Nasreen, Deidra, Sandy, Holley, Lisa-Jo, Helen – eloquent, graceful, grace-filled pray-ers, every one of them. My palms sweat as we stand in a circle, holding hands on the first evening. I’m praying I won’t have to pray out loud.
“I’m not much of a pray-er out-loud-er,” I confess on our last night, as we gather in the small sitting area to encourage Jennifer before her keynote address. But as I bow my head, nodding and murmuring here and there as others offer their gratitude and praise, I realize it’s okay. There is room for all kinds here – the vocal praise, the murmur, the quiet nod.
It’s not how we pray that matters, or even how articulate or inarticulate we are, but simply the offering itself. No matter how it’s conveyed, in groans or poetry, shouts or whispers, a word of praise or a plea for help always reaches God’s ears.
And for that, I lift up my own silent Amen.
How comfortable are you praying aloud in a group? If the thought of it makes you wiggy (like me), do you have any advice to offer that’s helped you in the past?
* Photo of hands grasped in prayer by Laura Boggess.