Forget the fancy words and deep analogies; prayer is about relationship
Your strength is not in numbers, nor does your might depend upon the powerful, but you are the God of the lowly, the helper of the oppressed, the supporter of the weak, the protector of those in despair, the savior of those without hope. Please, please, God of my father, God of the heritage of Israel, Master of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of all you have created, hear my prayer!—Judith 9:11-12 “What do you want me to do for you?” He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”—Luke 18:41
There’s something about the desperate confidence of Judith’s prayer that resonates with me on such a deep level. Here is a woman with no earthly reason for hope, whose home is besieged by the world’s most powerful army, whose future holds the promise only of suffering and death. She knows there is no way out, nothing to be done to save her people. And still she volunteers for the job because she knows that while she is powerless, she serves an all-powerful God.
So she takes it on herself to do the impossible. And then she prays. She prays from the darkness to a God who can bring light. She knows that the God of Israel is a wonder-worker with a heart for the helpless and she begs him to do what she knows he can do: save his people.
It’s a powerful moment of faith, and one that is not unrewarded — read the book to get to know one of the greatest heroines of the ancient world. I’m struck by the eloquence and the passion of her prayer. Time and again I’ve flipped to this page, praying for miraculous deliverance in a hopeless situation. I remind myself who God is, how he loves, what he’s capable of, and I plead with him to hear my prayer.
But Judith didn’t need to recall God’s wondrous deeds to praise him and entreat him. Those words were for her, to shore up her faith and move her heart to confidence. God didn’t need her eloquence. He just needed her to ask.
Some days I have lots to say to the Lord. I have fancy words and deep analogies and litanies and love. Other days all I can muster is a weak, “Please, Lord. Please.” I can’t speak in faith of what God has done. I can’t remind myself of his constancy or his love for the brokenhearted. I call out with Luke’s blind beggar, “Have pity on me!” And God answers, just as much as he did when I prayed with a thesaurus at hand.
My prayer doesn’t have to be beautiful or eloquent or powerful. Sometimes I’m not even sure it has to be faithful. It’s easy to think that Judith’s prayer is worth more because it’s so stirring. But the blind man’s simple request is answered just as powerfully and even more quickly. God is so gentle, so merciful that he’ll take any prayer he can get. Because prayer isn’t poetry, it’s relationship. And while beautiful words can be lovely, they can also get in the way. Even the words of the saints or of the Lord.
I’m memorizing Judith’s prayer this week to teach me who God is and how passionately I can need him. But I’m memorizing the blind beggar’s to remind me that the best prayer is sincere prayer, whether it feels good or not. I’m celebrating a God who loves to know us as we truly are, not as we wish we were, and who delights in answering our prayers. If only we can trust him enough to ask.
Meg Hunter-Kilmerwrites for her blog, “Held by His Pierced Hands,” and travels around the country speaking to youth and adults and leading retreats and parish missions.