I grew up in the choir loft of a small Lutheran church, and my kids are doing the same.
My mom was the choir director at that small church, and now my husband is a full-time church musician and employee. “Going to visit Daddy at work” means checking out the candy at the front desk, greeting the pastors in their offices, and hanging out with Daddy’s instruments.
Where I live in Minnesota, we have a lot of Scandinavian Lutheran folks. I love being one of them. We can belt out old hymns and put our hands together for new worship songs. We love potluck suppers and many of us make a mean hot dish. We have sweet and wild memories of youth gatherings, mission trips, church lock-ins, attending Bible camp on a lake, and playing crazy games at Wednesday night youth group. Many of the Lutherans I know are the first to lend a hand and the last to leave (probably on account of our long, drawn out, standing-in-the-parking-lot goodbyes).
Growing up in our Lutheran church also meant serving our neighbors. Our motto was God’s work, our hands. It meant loving and being loved by people of all ages, worshiping in the same space. It meant that if you asked for prayer you were added to the prayer chain, where we would pray such personal requests on our insides because we only prayed out loud before meals and bed.
In high school I attended a non-denominational Christian leadership camp. My guidance counselor, a faith mentor to me, signed me up to attend after seeing a spark in my heart for Jesus that I didn’t yet recognize. On the first day, I was late to arrive (no surprise to those who know me) and when I got there, everyone was already assembled in the auditorium to kick off the weekend. I walked in, took a seat, and God bowled me over.
The speaker up front offered to begin the weekend in prayer. He opened his mouth, and words poured out like I’d never heard. This man prayed like Someone was actually listening, like Someone was going to answer. I had never heard prayer like that before, and my jaw actually dropped.
Hearing prayers spoken out loud to God was literally, eternally life-changing for me. It was there that I prayed the prayer of salvation and learned what talking to God could be like.
Decades later, I still love to pray. Talking to God is like breathing to me, conversation with Him never-ceasing in my head and heart. I’m constantly thanking, asking, chattering, and remembering. I even wrote a book of prayers, and included written prayers in my devotional.
My children are learning that we can talk to God all the time about anything. My six-year-old offers prayers that seem wise beyond his years, my four-year-old folds her still-dimpled little hands, and when my two-year-old bellows, “We need pray!” I’m a puddle of mommy goo. We pray at bedtime and before meals — yes — but we also pray in the van on the way to preschool. We pray when there’s a problem. We pray when we are thankful. We pray when we have questions, and we write out our prayers.
My kids are praying and learning that their words are heard. Many aspects of prayer still perplex me, and I don’t know the answers to all of the questions my kids ask about God, but I do know and can teach them with confidence that God hears our prayers.
In small Lutheran churches on the prairies of the Midwest. In huge mega-churches in the middle of downtown cities. In quiet suburban living rooms. In the deepest depths of our being. God hears us. We can pray no matter the state of our hearts or where we stand. God loves hearing from us in any moment.
Over the years, the ways we pray change, but the One to whom our prayers rise remains the same. Our God is the same God that walked in Eden, that flooded the earth and saved Noah, that sent His Son to be born in a manger and later took that Son home, that blinded Saul and turned his heart to Paul, that meets us today on our own roads to Damascus.
No matter where you walk today, let God hear you. Whisper a prayer, or if you simply cannot, know that God understands what’s in the silence. God hears you, friend.