Praying When You Don’t Know How (or What) to Pray

Here is a delightful and insightful story from Leonard Sweet’s book, The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong.

The story is about praying when you don’t know how to pray or what to pray. I’ve abridged and edited the story, but the gist (if not the beauty) remains the same as Sweet tells it.

There is an old Hasidic (referring to mystical Judaism) story about a young Jewish boy. He lived on a small farm with his family. They were poor and simple people. One day he went to town with his father and heard prayers being recited in a synagogue. He was moved as he listened and he wanted to pray.

But he could not read the prayer book or recite the prayers.

So he began to pray the Hebrew alphabet: Aleph, bet, gimmel, dalet, hey, vav…

He recited the alphabet over and over. Then he said:

“O God, I don’t know how to pray or what to say. Here are the letters of the alphabet. Use them to make up the prayer I should pray, the words you would like to hear, and answer my prayer as you see fit for me.”

Maybe prayer is that basic. God, here are letters. Here are some faltering words. Here are some disjointed thoughts. Here are some yearnings. Some longings. Along with my confusion. My stumblings. Can you take all these together and make a prayer you would like me to pray that would be your will for me?

Maybe prayer is that simple.

May you and I pray today.

Pastor Brian

And a bit unrelated (or not), here is a painting titled, Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. I just liked this image.

Brian Rice