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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'Be the prayer'

Prayer doesn't have to be so difficult

“Five or six sentences or breaths into a well-intentioned prayer, I lose focus. The ungraded math papers on my desk noodle their way into my thoughts. Anxiety about my inadequate parenting joins in the conversation” (Sybil MacBeth in Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God; Paraclete Press, 2007).

Nancy and Gary Stelling pray in one
Nancy and Gary Stelling pray in one of the variety of prayer disciplines they practice in their Florida home.
Concern over prayer is almost universal. Prayer can be tricky. It has been for me. As a kid, I prayed dutifully since I heard that good Christians “pray without ceasing.” I had no idea what that meant, but I knew my work was cut out for me. And work I did: praying ferociously, hands clenched, eyes scrunched, praying even when my parents weren’t looking — the ultimate in “praying without ceasing.”

Imagine my surprise as an adult when a friend said: “You know, you don’t have to pray, you simply get to pray.” One simple sentence, one huge burden lifted. What joy: Prayer is not a must, but a gift; not duty, but opportunity; not law, but grace.


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