Paper Prayers

I keep a prayer journal and it’s one of my most favorite things to do.
My journal reflects my mind pretty accurately. It’s a mix of prayers, reflections, questions, bible verses, song lyrics, and word for word copies of text messages from people who encouraged me.

These prayers are scratched into the temporal materials of this world, but etched into the very foundations of the heavens. Written with hands so intricately detailed, down to every muscle and ligament that work to provide fluid movement. Breathed out of weary, joyful lungs. All these prayers, accumulating in the atmosphere, gathered together like clusters of stars. As intentional as the pattern of the cosmos, yet as unique and different as the details of a snowflake. Some rushed, hurried along in the busyness of life, others slow and steady.

“These paper prayers, though inscribed on delicate paper, are anything but fragile. They are the tools I use to reinforce the foundations of my peace. They are faith in physical form.”

His grace has acted as bookends to my life. 
The in-between is filled with laments and griefs that could fill novels, joys and triumphs that would burst the bindings of the book attempting in vain to contain them.

When I pick one thing, one moment, it’s hard to see the purpose or to see the good. But when I stand back, when I physically turn the pages to the prayers long forgotten, I see Him. I see Him in my laments of loneliness. The times I didn’t think I would ever belong, ever find my place. Journals later, I would carve out the words expressing my utter joy in the family I had found in my church. I look at the prayers begging God to end my physical pain, and by the end of that journal I’m praising Him for being able to eat a full meal without any.

I read my entries from years past, when I understood so little of grace and prayer—of Jesus, really–but now, I read the narrative of the God who redeemed all of that. The Savior who came and picked up that hurt and molded it into joy. He gathered the ashes of years past and scattered them like the stars that shimmer above. He turned broken to beauty.

I fasten my pain to my joy and meld them together into praise.”

There is something so beautiful in physically writing down prayers. Prayers are from the depths of our souls. They draw from the heaviest of hurts, and beckon a raw honesty rarely found elsewhere. I find it beautiful, watching my soul spill across the off-white journal paper. To watch as sorrow and overwhelming joy dance across the page in deep, black ink. I press these hardly-held hopes between the pages like wildflowers. Preserving them for later, for when they all make a little more sense.

I come away from those prayers with ink-smudged hands, proof of the offering laid before Jesus in bold humility. My prayers are smeared down the outside edge of my pinky, like the residue of hope. Liquified echoes of my surrender.

I hope to always be a person with ink-smudged hands. I hope to forever be a soul that spills to the One who knows how to carefully collect the disorganized, fragmented sentences produced by my heart.

Sometimes, when I find myself struggling to make time for Jesus in my daily life, I pull out the small chest that resides under my bed. I open the lid and rest my gaze of the assortment of journals tucked away inside. Spanning back to 11 year old me, who had no idea the pain and joy awaiting her.
There’s an evolution to my journaling, from “Dear Diary” to “Dear God.” From descriptions of my day-to-day life, to detailed prayers and praises. It’s the same scribbled handwriting, a mix of cursive and print, with lopsided letters and incomplete loops. But the person holding the pen has changed so much. She has gone through so much, survived so much, and become so much more than all of it. All because of the One who never let go.

These paper prayers, though inscribed on delicate paper, are anything but fragile. They are the tools I use to reinforce the foundations of my peace. They are faith in physical form.
I fasten my pain to my joy and meld them together into praise.
They are the melody of my life, stringing it all together in a chorus of hope and trust. They bind the cracking spines of the books that make up this great in-between called life. It’s no secret I love words. I spend most of my time constructing paragraphical structures to bridge the gap between confusion and understanding, cynicism and hope, suspicion and trust. Words are my oxygen and I exhale through my fingertips.

I know that on the nights when I don’t have the strength to verbalize my thoughts or scratch out a new prayer, I can pull out those paper prayers and let my heart take comfort in the almost forgotten moments of faithfulness. Though I, in all my humanity, remain a forgetful creature, He has never once–not for a moment–forgotten me.

-AC

“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words”

-Psalm 17:6

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