Morning Prayer [A One-Word Check-In]

ducks 3

It is August, the quiet middle of the year. There seem to be more and more ducks every morning. When I come down the stairs into our quiet kitchen, I can see them, diving and flapping in the morning mist. Their sleek bodies are dark silhouettes against our pond.

They’ll start coming in droves as fall creeps nearer and that fine-tuned instinct kicks in: Get ready. Cold is coming. They’ll stay here because Dane helps our neighbor spread corn feed on the lawn every evening at dusk. Because in these pre-winter months, this is a place of plenty. A place of safety. They will stay until ice closes over the lake, and then in one quiet moment, they’ll disappear.

*

In January, I chose my One Word for 2013. Ask.

In the white-washed newness of the year’s clean slate, I felt motivated and inspired and ready to tackle my issues with prayer head on. I ordered books online, and I imagined that I’d read them all in a row, filling my heart with good, true words.

I wasn’t looking for a formula exactly. But I wanted to figure out what prayer might look like for me now. I wanted to know what it meant and what it was about and what I could expect of God in those moments of quiet intimacy. I was all kinds of motivated, like you are at the beginning of a new year.

This is the time of year I’m supposed to do a check-in here about my 2013 One Word, and it occurs to me that at some point in the icy pre-spring, my search for prayer petered out.

one word 2013 - ask

In the first month, I was reading like crazy, sorting through my prayer baggage and cynicism with the loaded words of The Circle Maker. The author suggested that “If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God,” and I thought No and Yes all at once. Because in the humble place of mothering toddlers while trying to be a writer, it’s all impossible. Every big and small moment of it. The wispy, unrealized dreams as well as the hard moments of daily love, grace and patience.

In The Praying Life by Paul E. Miller (easily one of my favorite books of the year), I learned to come weary. I found a freedom in that book that I never expected, and for a few months I experienced rich, vibrant, distracted, messy, beautiful moments with God in front of my sun-lamp at the kitchen table.

I picked up the next book, a meditation on contemplative prayer by Richard Rohr, but I never could start it. And it has to do with the late days of February when two big things happened at the same time.

First, I began to ask in regular, fragmented pleas for a publisher for my book. I asked God to bring the right editor, the right publisher, the right people. And in the course of one surprising, wild week, He did.

And, in the same breathless week, I had my second miscarriage in a row.

During those early moments of Knowing about each of those babies, I prayed quiet prayers of grace and health. I prayed for the new life growing. I prayed for the child who would be born into this hard world, into all of my baggage, into our loud, beautiful family. I pressed my palm against my stomach and felt the holiness of it all.

The second baby dissolved into miscarriage in the midst of a flurry of publishing contracts and Big Announcements. I was bleeding away the remnants of an unrealized life. And, at the same time, I was realizing a deferred dream.

I stopped trying to understand prayer.

Because really, how can you understand any of this? How can these two things exist in the space of your mind at once? The beauty and the pain, the excitement and the loss – all of it true. All of it real. All of it filtered, somehow, through the grace of God and through those early-morning fragments of my prayer.

*

In the morning, I come down the stairs in my pajamas and I turn on the coffee pot. The morning lights early still, even though the days are getting shorter.

The ducks are on the pond, quiet in their movement, beautiful in their mystery, and I don’t know anything more about prayer than I did in January, but I sit there in the silence, and I pray.

I murmur the old worship chorus under my breath. It’s been in my head for months.

In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
In the morning when I rise
Give me Jesus

And I don’t know what it means – Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. I only know that in these early morning moments of weariness and half-hearted trust, this is a place of plenty. This is a place of safety.

The ducks are gathering, and the morning is rising, and I don’t understand what I’m finding here. But I know that somehow it is Enough.

35 thoughts on “Morning Prayer [A One-Word Check-In]

  1. I love this, Addie – so beautiful. I don’t understand prayer either, but it is somehow enough. Thank you.

  2. Such tragic beauty in the paradox here, Addie. I hold space with your experiences, wrapped in a holy hush.

    Oh, and finding this “place of plenty” – or recognizing that you’ve been soaking in it all along – THIS, I think, is the heart of prayer. Maybe not the grammar of prayer, maybe not the logistics. But it comes to me that way, too – that place called ENOUGH.

  3. I am so there with you
    but leaning on the truth that he knows all the things we don’t
    and He told me once that even my breathing is prayer
    rest in that

  4. Truth be told – this place “of plenty”; ” of safety”; that somehow “is Enough” – is exactly the place of rest I’ve searched for forever. What freedom comes when the pursuit of analyzing to understand everything is redirected into acceptance that God is for me regardless of my circumstances. Thanks again Addie, for reminding us we don’t have to have it all figured out to validate our faith.

  5. I love that hymn too. And I love the relearning of prayer we are getting to do right now. So much of how I understood prayer my entire life revolved around performance. God was the ultimate grown up I was trying to impress. And now, it’s messy and changing all the time. But I’m beginning to be free of the formulas. And in that, I think I’m finding it…in the mystery.

    Thankful for your process and your story.

  6. yes, Addie, it is enough. God is enough. you are enough. Your prayer, though just the words of a hymn are enough. thanks for sharing. Yes, ASK and we will receive, more than we ever dreamed or imagined.

  7. Exactly. It is enough. And you are enough. And God is more than enough, even when we’re completely mystified by what is happening in our lives. Prayer is an attitude of the heart, a direction of the mind. Not so much words as space, openness, worship. ‘Give me Jesus. . . ” yes. enough. More than enough.

  8. That’s my word for this year “Enough.” God is enough. He has given me enough resources. It is true but hard at times.
    Thanks Adie for your words this morning.

    Blessings,
    Robyn

  9. This sums up life for me: the coexistence of the heartbreaking and the heart-filling all at once.
    I think, honestly, what I’m learning most in this season is that the prayer God always answers in the affirmative is just that: “give me Jesus.”
    Sidenote: you often make me cry. Today was one of those days.

  10. You have written (though probably more beautifully) words that could have been my own. A different kind of life seeping away for me, but a loss that seemed to abandon me to survive in a dessert life, parched and weary. Isaiah 41 has been on my heart a lot lately, esp. v. 17-20.

  11. I woke up singing “Give me Jesus,” and I thought, how odd, I haven’t heard that forever. Then I opened my email to find this. I’ve been on a search to rediscover what prayer looks like for me now. It’s not the same as it once was, and I’m trying to learn to let that be enough. To not expect it to look a certain way. To just find Him, somewhere in the middle of it all. Your post helped me, again — as always. Somehow, no matter what you write, it’s just what I need. I’m so thankful that you let us work through so much of this with you.

    1. Such a lovely, simple song, isn’t it? So glad that we’re working through things at the same time and my words can be some kind of encouragement. So cool. And humbling. Thanks Kelly.

  12. Your paradox of one heartfelt request answered and another denied reminds me of the story in the first chapter of A Praying Life. Miller’s daughter doesn’t want to pray because prayer has not worked for her sister, but Miller encourages her, and the missing contact lens is suddenly visible in plain sight on top of the ground.

    1. One more example popped into my mind: John McCain praying when imprisoned in North Vietnam.

      “I was finding that prayer helped. It wasn’t a question of asking for superhuman strength or for God to strike the North Vietnamese dead. It was asking for moral and physical courage, for guidance and wisdom to do the right thing. I asked for comfort when I was in pain, and sometimes I received relief. I was sustained in many times of trial.”
      http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2008/01/28/john-mccain-prisoner-of-war-a-first-person-account?page=8

      In great suffering, he prayed. Sometimes he received relief. Sometimes he didn’t.

  13. Oh Addie.
    I just wrote a post about truth that comes in sideways – and this – this exquisite piece of writing is that, exactly. I have read your post and I feel it, I feel it, without knowing exactly what I feel. This is also, coincidentally, what prayer does to me.

    Thank you.

  14. You have some kind of sense as to just what we are experiencing, and it is such a gift from you, this post. My past year has been such an upheaval that I gave up trying to understand this past spring and have just hung onto remembering to breathe. He is enough, He gives me the breath, He holds us in those places that our minds will never make sense of. Thank you for reminding me that this condition is shared, not just me alone drifting in the wake of it all.

  15. Prayer is a mysterious thing, is it not? I have been there, seeking to understand, struggling to make it work. I am there, needing, once again to cultivate a practice of intimate times with God. Our prayers change as we change. There is no one way for us all, there is no one way for all seasons of our lives. (I am talking to myself right now!). Sounds like you are learning this. Lord, help me to really know it, too.

  16. Thanks, Addie, for always sharing honestly where you are and making it so very relatable. It is so good for me to read things like this so I know I’m not crazy!

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