words be few.

last week was a big week for the women in my bible study. there was the death of the husband of a woman who has cancer whom we’ve been praying for, a child’s brain tumor, plus a myriad of other things named on our list. all we could do was take prayer requests and once we got caught up on those two situations, we were spent by the end of the night. when we gathered around to pray, someone joked, ‘remember, mary kathryn says that god doesn’t bless long prayers, so keep it short.’

{y’all need to know that the women of my small group are some praying fools. and they believe, too. they are so, so precious to god’s heart. how i adore my small group.}

we all laughed when amber made that comment. ‘god honors brevity’, is what i say, and we laugh because they know what i’m really saying is, ‘i’m about to turn into a pumpkin and i’m tired of talking, so let’s just get this show on the road.’ while, of course, there is some truth there -that god doesn’t honor long, drawn-out, wordy prayers more than he honors simple ones of ten words or less- the truth is, and they know this, i really love to pray. {but if there’s nothing too pressing or if it’s getting late, then there’s nothing wrong with wrapping it up in two minutes or less, is there? just saying.}

there’s not a whole lot i like to do more than to bathe my friends in the soaking love of jesus through prayer. often my prayers are wordy but i’m working on not talking so much when i pray. just meditating in my heart on the mercy and tenderness of jesus, or on his word. and i practice listening (because if i can’t listen to the voice of my own heart, how can i listen to voice of yours?) my words have become fewer, my tone softer. i want to tap into the heart of jesus when i pray, either for myself or for my friends. i’m not uncomfortable with the pauses.

i don’t pray to move god. i don’t pray to impress him or anyone else. i don’t pray with any sort of force or power because i know i don’t have to yell at god in order to get him to hear me. i don’t have the energy anymore to pray the loudest or with Great Spiritual Authority. jesus is my authority, his father the creator and ruler of all things on earth and in heaven. {now listen, sometimes i will get going in some warfare and will flat-out yell at the devil.} generally, though, to pray in the sweet, sweet name of jesus is all the authority we need, no matter how loud or how powerful. so i pray to open up the gateway from my heart to that guy.

i don’t pray to get his attention. i pray because i have his attention.

sometimes i pray in tongues. sometimes i get on my face. most times i’m laying in bed or riding in my car or putting on my make-up.

sometimes i’ll just start off with a question for the lord, or thank him for something sweet he did. or i’ll talk to him about something in his word i read. and then i try to just…listen. not for an audible voice because, let’s face it, even the most spiritual people i know don’t often hear god audibly. but i listen to the voice of my heart and since that’s where jesus lives and as long as i’m abiding in him, his voice sounds a bit like my own…only, it’s more of a quiet knowing. i trust you know what i’m talking about.

to that end, the longer i abide in christ and find my life hidden in him, my prayer life is more of a state of being for my heart.

but most of the time? my go-to prayers, which i learned from my favorite author ann lamott, are two of the simplest: ‘help me, help me, help me.’ and ‘thank you, thank you, thank you.’ because, really? i just need his help. or to know that i’ve tapped into his heart. to be honest, i don’t really think god minds or cares either way.

because i’m pretty certain he just wants me to come to him at all.

even if my words are few.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (philippians 4:6-7, the message)

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 08:51:21

    “I pray because I have His attention.” Beautiful.

  2. Sharon O
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 09:24:29

    wow… good thoughts and great words. thank you. I will have to read that again.

  3. Leigh
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 09:37:52

    And again, somehow you know about something I’ve been wrestling with! I’ve had a hard time praying out loud for several years, leftover issues from the churches of my youth. I pray all day long but when it comes to praying with others…I totally get hung up. I try to tell myself that people just happen to be listening in on my conversation with God but I still have this aversion to praying out loud. Anyway, this makes me appreciate your appreciation for brevity. Also, I pray Ann Lamott’s prayers alllllll the time. So often it just boils down to those two phrases. There’s no sense in prettifying or expounding when they say it so well.

  4. kfsullivan
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 09:40:24

    love this.

  5. Peggy
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 09:49:56

    “I don’t pray to get his attention. i pray because i have his attention.”

    I love that! AMEN!

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Nov 10, 2010 @ 14:42:05

      i love this, too. i don’t remember who i first heard say it but it wasn’t me. and i’m sure the first person i heard say it heard someone else say it first. :)

  6. Katie Hall
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 10:02:38

    I’ve realized that I’ve started praying without words sometimes. Just concentrating on what I’m trying to say. If I want to say thank you, sometimes I think of giving Jesus a big hug. If I want God to give someone peace, I picture Him calming that person with His light, or scooping them into His arms.
    Is that lazy?

  7. Trackback: Tweets that mention words be few. « beauty for ashes -- Topsy.com
  8. lou lou
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 14:01:24

    I have an interview in YOUR town tomorrow at noon. This could be manna from heaven, a literal answer to prayer, Please keep me in prayer tomorrow from whenever you get up till about 2pm?? Thanks love. I am trying to just “thank Him” at this point, but am finding that difficult. love you baby girl

  9. bobkiddy
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 14:36:00

    this post has got me thinking about (in the bible) the dude on the corner all dressed up praying to be heard wearing the robes wanting to be seen… and I have to wonder…
    If that’s how it looks to God when we do or have done that before man… can it still look like that to God even when its just you and Him… no one really wants to say “hey i wanna be that guy in the bible” but instead of true intimacy with God… and getting naked…(what I like to say now) we get all super fancy and dressed up… we get all uber spiritual instead of speaking plainly… God made us to where the youngest among us can know and follow him… the faith of a child is how we are suppose to operate…
    sooooo just kinda thinking bout these things after reading… props on the pause and long silences… and not being in a rush… I find i do that to… but when people are around… they kinda think the prayer was over… and are ready to leave… lol…

    • mary kathryn tyson
      Nov 10, 2010 @ 14:43:44

      love this, bob. where is that story? unfamiliar.

      funny about people thinking the prayer is over. :)


      • douglas
        Nov 10, 2010 @ 19:57:57

        Upon reading Bob’s post I was reminded of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

        Luke 18:9-14

        Luke 18:9-14

        [9] To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: [10] “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

        [13] “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

        [14] “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

        I’m not sure if this was what Bob was referring to, but very similar to his telling. Not many would admit to being the Pharisee, but could think of times when we might have been like this, provided we’re being honest.

        I pray to be more like the tax collector and seek God in a state of humbleness and brokenness.

  10. Heidi Stephen
    Nov 10, 2010 @ 16:51:04

    “I don’t pray to get His attention. I pray because I have His attention.”

    I LOVE that.

    I have been struggling with the concept of prayer the past year (an area where I had previously thought I had grown so much!) wondering what exactly the purpose is, what does it matter if He is all-knowing, am I changing anything? etc…

    I believe God is starting to gently answer some of my questions. And I really like that line – thanks for your perspective!


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