I am still the fifth-grade girl who ran into her room to bury her face into a pillow. I lay there, letting sobs spill from my eyes like water just released from a dam. Salty tears fastened clumps of thick black hair to my cheeks. I let the chunky pieces stay there like a surrender of sorts. I was too tired to push it away, the God-given hair I spent most days fighting and wishing away: heavy, intruding, too dark, and inescapable.
It was in these early moments that I called out to a God I had yet to know. I pleaded for Him to come and change the painful circumstances I faced and challenged Him to show up if He was really there and cared. We had just moved back to the States after living overseas for four years. I was grieving what our family lost in the move, and angry that I couldn’t go back to what was. That, along with family hardship, left me desperate to seek God out and beg for the possibility of Him to answer.
Decades later, I hold that naïve, honest girl close in heart. Sometimes I still run to my pillow when I feel desperate to see God move and long to feel His presence. But now, I call on Him by name. Knowing His name has changed everything, but having learned to look for Him as my One and Only is the reason why I continue to pray.
Though most days I pray calm and level-headed, it’s the raw moments, when I have come to the end of myself, that stand out. I am not the same girl I was at ten-years-old, but I still come face-to-face with pain, challenge, and brokenness in and all around me: the pieces of hatred I still harbor for my own God-made body, the sadness that sometimes leaks out in angry outbursts, the heartache and loss I see in the lives of those I love, the irreconcilable relationships everywhere I look, and those remnants of shame deep within that follow me around like a shadow.
It’s in those kinds of desperate prayer moments that I end up laying myself down in a salty-faced surrender like I learned so long ago, asking Jesus to come. I go back to being that young girl who is scared of the magnitude of her feelings until the balled fists no longer pound on the bed and come open, and I am ready to receive His presence.
Prayer doesn’t ask for perfection or require a socially accepted form of piety. Prayer asks for our entire personhood. It doesn’t require eloquence or entertainment; it’s hospitable and welcomes in the honest and strange parts of us. Prayer has the power to move us from our isolated, individual needs and offers us connection.
Circumstances didn’t change in the immediate way I wanted them to back in the fifth grade, and more often than not, they still don’t. It’s not that I don’t believe in miracles. I do. However, I look back and see an irreplaceable beauty standing right next to what only felt like ugly, unfiltered prayers at the time. I see hope being written into the lines of those memories that I wished away.
God could have done exactly what I asked of Him, but if He did, I wonder if I would have begun to take Him for a pachinko machine or a genie in a bottle. I wanted a miracle, but what I really needed was God Emmanuel. I despised my weakness and inability to change things, but I needed to come to love just how reliable His strength is. How else would I have learned to go to Him again and again and experience Him holding me together one arm tender and another strong? How would I know that He is the God we can come and “pour out our hearts like water” to like it says in Lamentations 2:19?
Prayer reconnects us to the first place of our existence when we were fully aware of our dependence on the One who made our innermost parts. He was with us in our smallest and most raw beginnings and He covered you and me there. He still comes and covers us, bringing Himself as the answer to our cries and our needs. Sometimes He gives us exactly what we ask for in all of our limited understanding. And sometimes, He doesn’t. But He always brings Himself.
What does it look for you to “pour out your heart” to Jesus today,
and how can we pray for you?
Here at (in)courage one of our greatest privileges is turning to God together in prayer. Please leave a prayer request in the comments and then pray for the person who commented before you.