Changing & Praying: A Student’s Reflection on Prayer

This weekend, from Friday, January 22, until the evening of Sunday, January 24, Act Five staff and students will be participating in a 24/2 prayer weekend; 48 hours where at least one resident is praying in a designated prayer room at 75 Blake Street. 

In light of this, Rieneke writes about how her idea of prayer has changed throughout her time at Act Five:

“If God is everywhere, and prayer is being in the presence of God, then anything can be a prayer.”

Those words have been on a sticky note on the bathroom mirror that I share with my friends for several months now. It took me a while to get to a place where I could articulate that realization, but that’s perhaps one of the most important things that being in this program has done for me. 

Back in September, I found myself flipping through a songbook for this program that had liturgies for everything. Tucked in the back of the book, I found a handful of recipes – not what I expected to find in a book that was supposed to help you worship. In one of our kitchens here at Blake Street, “a liturgy for the ritual of morning coffee” hangs next to the fridge that keeps our cream and over a table that holds our sugar. From all sides, I was being bombarded by this foreign idea of prayer being in everything. 

Heading into this new term with the same songbooks and framed prayers on the walls, I’ve been remembering my journey with the idea of prayer that happened during the last term. 

Our first time heading downtown to hand out hot chocolate to Hamilton’s homeless happened early into the year. Affectionately referred to as “Deedz”, I’ve been spending most Thursday nights that we’ve been in Hamilton going on Deedz, but that first time stood out from the rest. It was a slow night and we only talked to a handful of people. By the end of the night, we found ourselves ending the night in front of Jackson Square Mall, standing around our orange cooler of hot chocolate and praying about the evening. In that moment, I was captivated by the urge to have an eyes-open, hands-waiting sort of prayer. I looked up at the massive office buildings, listening to the rush of traffic and the feelings that can only come with being out in the city when most people would rather be in bed. With my hands and eyes and heart and every single part of me opened up, I could only think, God is here. I stood on that street corner praying with my eyes open, and for the first time, I didn’t feel one bit of remorse for not sealing them shut. 

I thought about those few minutes for the next few weeks. It finally hit me why this new way of praying, praying with where you are, felt so much more rich than my usual block-out-the-world kind of talking to God usually did. This way of prayer invited God to work through what he’d already given me. “God works in the particular, not the abstract”, as they say, so of course praying to God about the city I had been exploring all night while gazing at it looming in the night sky made me see how he was working in it. 

I wasn’t sure how to word it until we spent an afternoon in Nina’s backyard (our spiritual director at Act Five). She mentioned casually, almost as an aside, that, “Prayer is just being in the presence of God, after all.” And just like that, it clicked. I had seen God everywhere, because after that first night of Deedz I saw him in the face of every single person I’ve met through this program, in every single forest and restaurant and classroom and corner of this old house I call home. 

“If God is everywhere, and prayer is being in the presence of God, then anything can be a prayer.” I scribbled those words in my journal and frantically tried to string my thoughts together enough to share them with my ever-patient roommates. Now I read them every morning while I brush my teeth and say a quick prayer, because of course my little act of caring for this body of mine is a form of prayer. 

I’m not sure how exactly to put it, but this new revelation followed me everywhere I went in term one. I realized that I can pray anywhere: I can toss out a quick “God, give me peace” before an anxiety-inducing conversation, I can thank him for so many mouths to feed while we sit around the dinner table, and I can even look at a recipe and praise God by following it closely enough that the end result is edible, maybe even joy-bringing. 

When I planned on coming to Act Five in the months leading up to that night on the street corner, never did it cross my mind that my idea of prayer would change. But here I am, hands around a toothbrush, eyes on a pink sticky note on my mirror, and every part of me in adoration. 

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