Heads bowed. Eyes closed. Hands folded. Who taught us to pray this way?

Would God have us pray in a spirit of formality. Or would he rather we lift our heads, open our eyes, and stretch out our hands to the mystery that reaches us.

I think of the Michelangelo painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Divine touching human. Or is it the other way around.

What is it, then?

Is it like my father as I watched him as a child. Sitting in his recliner for hours, eyes closed as if asleep, mouth moving in a repetition of heavenly words.

Does God ask us to leave this world for his?

Is it like the prayer meetings I once attended. Passionate supplicants raising their voices, as if to make sure God would hear the fiery words.

Does God require noise more than silence?

Is it like the 24/7 house of prayer I once went to. The constant flow of worship and prayer an offering and aroma, but one I could not make sense of.

Does God need a match to start his own fire?

Is it like the faith-filled petitions for signs, wonders, miracles, breakthrough. Our asking the final movement across the threshold, from broken to whole.

Does God demand faith before he works redemption?

Is it like the prayer requests we share publicly at my church. The man at the front writes them down and speaks them to God.

Does God want our requests more than our acceptance?

What is it, then? That’s the problem. It’s personal. Both personal and public, but the personal expression is sometimes lost to the public one.

When I sit down on the chair in one corner of my room every morning with a blanket pulled over me and a warm cup of coffee next to me and write whatever comes, it’s prayer.

When I walk through the forest or in the mountains hearing only the earth and my footsteps, it’s prayer.

When I sit meditating with closed eyes in dark silence for 15 minutes (often very badly) without uttering a word, it’s prayer.

When I read a book or poem or watch a film or hear a song that elicits emotion, it’s prayer.

When I sit on the deck on a summer evening watching the sky and the trees and listening to the birds and the wind, it’s prayer.

Prayer may sometimes be words. And it might also be so much more.

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