Praying With All That I Am

Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thess. 5:16-18

Can you recall a time when you were so filled with gratitude that you could barely find a way to express the way you felt? Maybe you or someone you loved deeply recovered from a serious illness.  Perhaps you were overwhelmed by the beauty of a gorgeous sunset or a vista of colorful fall foliage, or even the immersive silence of a snowy winter morning.  It might have been the first time you held a precious new grandchild in your arms. I can remember, even after so many years, holding my own newborn and experiencing a gratitude so profound that I had no words to pray. But it bubbled out in tears and laughter and an undeniable connection of my heart to the heart of the One who is the giver of every good and perfect gift. I couldn’t “say” a prayer at that moment, but I “was” a prayer as I wordlessly but thankfully recognized God’s gracious blessing.

As we become more and more aware of God’s great love for us, we naturally long for creative ways to say thank you. We want to be closer to the Source of that love – to respond in gratitude completely and unconditionally with all of who we are. The Psalms are full of imagination and emotion – fear and anger and pain and shouting at God. And when the psalmist rejoices, there is no limit to his celebration and praise:

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness…   (Ps. 138:1-2)

God in God’s fullness invites us in OUR fullness into relationship and loving embrace. How amazing  this relationship can be if we are willing to respond unconditionally, like the psalmist, with body and soul. If we only relate to God with pious words, soft voices, and polite responses, we are holding back the essence of who we really are and limiting our intimacy with God. Jesus prayed with body and soul, completely engaged in his relationship with God. Think of his forty days in the wilderness, his long night alone in Gethsemane, and his final prayer on the cross. He brought all of himself, body and soul, to God in prayer. I think God is inviting us as beloved children into the kind of relationship that allows us to shout at God, question God, be silent with God, laugh with God, sing and dance with God, chase after God and finally fall in love with God. Spirituality teacher, Jane Vennard says, “If we believe God to be unconditional love, we will pray whatever comes to mind and heart, body and soul, assured of total acceptance.

Prayer: Accepting God, remind me again that you want all that I am: grateful, doubting, afraid, trusting, happy or sad. Because it is when I offer myself unconditionally that I am able to know your love completely. Thank you for loving all of me.  AMEN.

Francie Winslow