As the pastor’s wife I get to spend a lot of time with people in church and in prayer. And I see how many people are uncomfortable with prayer. They often voice the concerns that I have about prayer: that they’re not good at praying, they don’t know what to say, they feel uncomfortable, etc.
Dom John Chapman once encouraged people to “pray as you can, not as you can’t.”
I love that. It really speaks to all of us who struggle with how to be in relationship with God. I think that’s what my journey is about: learning to pray as I can.
Two years ago, my husband, Max, went to pick up my son from preschool. Matthew was just three years old at the time. Just as Max and Matthew were walking out of the classroom one of the moms, who had just picked up her son, came rushing back into the school with her son, Cody. Cody had just taken a bad fall outside in the parking lot and now had blood oozing from his forehead. Matthew and Max watched for a minute as the school personnel rushed to help Cody, then they slowly made their way to the car.
Matthew was quiet for a minute, clearly thinking about his friend. Finally, Max asked Matthew if he wanted to pray for Cody. Matthew said yes, then immediately began to pray: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.”
Here, for the umpteenth time, we see why Jesus encouraged us to be like children in our faith. Here, Matthew prayed as he could. Boldly and confidently he recited the words of the prayer that was most familiar to him. He didn’t worry whether they were the right words or not. He didn’t care that the prayer he was using is normally used to bless casseroles and green beans, rather than to ask for help for someone in need. No, he just prayed.
That gives me hope that I can learn to “pray as I can.” That I can look beyond my need to have the perfect words and the most earnest presentation in order to be with God.
And that if words ever fail me, I can always fall back on the grace we say at dinner time.