A Pilgrimage into Prayer

August 12, 2009 | 22 comments

I felt pain in the words, tapped on a keyboard by someone wanting to capture the ear of God.

Somewhere far away, someone sought answers and turned to the cursor blinking in a rectangular box on Google’s homepage.

The seeker was on a pilgrimage of prayer. And so she googled her confession. She googled this:

“I keep praying but fail.”

She hit enter, and her Google search brought her here: to the blog of this Iowa woman on her own pilgrimage of prayer. The sojourner came and went in a whisper — leaving only a footprint in my blog-statistics tracker with the search terms: “I keep praying but fail.”

Oh, girl. I know. I know.

If I had your ear again, I’d tell you that you didn’t fail, not really. But oh, how I know what it is to feel like a failure at prayer. And I’d tell you that when you thought no one was listening, God heard every word. Even then, He knew.

He knew it before you even spoke it.

Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
— Psalm 139:4

Girl, you didn’t fail.


My own pilgrimage to prayer has felt like a series of setbacks and failures — a tally of victories and losses that I faithfully recorded in a spiral-bound journal.

I would take pen to paper and scratch out long lists of requests. Two days later, I would return and mark the “answered” prayers with a bold, underlined word: PRAISE. I left blank spaces behind other requests that — to me — seemed to have been ignored, or answered in ways I didn’t like.

This was a scorecard of prayers that “worked” and prayers that failed — or so I thought.

I still record my daily prayers, but a few years ago, I stopped keeping score. I started to realize that prayer had less to do with changing my circumstances, and more to do with changing me. Prayer had been like a drive-through window where I’d place my order and leave. It became a time of communing with a dear Friend. And as it turned out, this Friend knew my needs before I even asked — and I didn’t need to treat him like a short-order cook.

And on this pilgrimage, I’m finding that prayer isn’t always about the asking. It’s conversing with my Friend throughout the day.

Sure, I pray in my quiet time, with journal on my lap. But I also pray in my garden, as I tend to His Earth. I pray while I wash dishes and while I fold my family’s laundry.

“Protect her heart, Lord,” I whisper as I fold a 5T shirt that covers the heart of a young girl.

“Keep Scott safe from harm,” I plead as I stack my farmer’s work shirts in the closet.

“Wash me clean, Father,”
I beg of Him as I fold another bath towel.

And I still make my lists. (I can’t keep it straight otherwise.)

But I’ve come to realize that my idea of a failure is really a victory in disguise — a victory revealed in God’s own time. Often, if prayers had turned out the way I’d hoped, the results could have been disastrous.

But still I ask, and I plead, and if I err in anything, Lord, let me err in asking for something big — really big.

I’ve prayed for many a miracle — only to find the miracle taking place not on things external, but in the depth of my own soul.

Do I fail at prayer? Yes.

But my God never fails me.



holy experience

I journey with Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience most Wednesdays. This week we consider our Pilgrimages Into Prayer. Would you consider joining us there?

by | August 12, 2009 | 22 comments


  1. Runner Mom

    Jennifer, this was besutiful! Thank you for sharing your heart!!
    Have a wonderful day, sweet friend!


  2. Steph

    Wow, Jennifer! You spoke to my heart, thank you for this!

  3. beautyinallthings

    Thank you so much for reminding me that it is okay to fail at prayer because He will never fail me. I love that about the God of the universe!
    Cherry Blossom

  4. Tabitha@ichoosebliss

    You move me deeply and I am so very grateful.

  5. A Simple Country Girl

    Some say that women's at-home tasks are mindless and mundane, that they beg for meaning. If we all prayed over our duties and disciples each time we touched them, we would usher God into our midst. Into their midst. What could be more meaningful? And exciting?

  6. Dianne

    Lots of things to ponder about here–thank you so much for taking the time to write this thoughtful piece.

  7. Monica Sharman

    I'm praising God who shows the waves their borders, established the mountains, prepares the earth and the grain, and…
    directs Google searches.
    And from now on, my laundry-folding times are going to be AWESOME.

  8. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    Jennifer – how beautiful this is! I was just captivated by the words and the message.

    Thank you!

  9. christy rose

    Just Wonderful Jennifer! I was moved by this post! It is interesting to see how people come across our blogs and what they are searching for. That was a God-directed search that led to you to lead to Him. I promise you!

  10. God's Not Finished With Us Yet...

    Jennifer you have always inspired me to be a better 'me'. Which is why when you get a chance please swing by my blog for a blog award for you.

    Hugs. 😀

  11. Maria

    I often wonder about all this "stumbling" around on the internet. It can bring blessings… I always hope it is time well spent.

    Great post~ I appreciate your thoughts on praying… very sincerely written
    thank you ~ Maria

  12. Jennifer

    God will lead people to answers when they search. I'm constantly humbled and amazed at His directions. And yes, let us err on the side of praying big!

  13. Chris Godfredsen

    Yes, Jennifer. He tells us that we will seek Him and find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. That's what you are talking about – what we read in Jeremiah. Living with Him, communicating with Him in the seemingly trivial is huge! And praying big, well, works too!

    What a blessed post!

  14. Chris Godfredsen

    Yes, Jennifer. He tells us that we will seek Him and find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts. That's what you are talking about – what we read in Jeremiah. Living with Him, communicating with Him in the seemingly trivial is huge! And praying big, well, works too!

    What a blessed post!

  15. Candi

    He is good, and His unfailing love endures forever.

    Thank you for this beautiful post, and the laundry tips! I'm trying to be more purposeful in my time, making every minute count in eternity economy. What a helpful idea to pray as I fold–and a way to change my heart from grumbly about chores to gratefulness for clothes and the precious ones who wear them.

  16. Billy Coffey

    My wife says that doing the laundry is her favorite household chore, and just for the reason you described here. That God knows what I'm going to say before I say it gives me a great sense of comfort, because I never manage to say it just right.

    Loved this, Jennifer!

  17. Karen

    Thanks so much for your post. It is wonderful! As I mention in my post on prayer, I often describe prayer as simply having a conversation with God – talking to Him. I will often be in the midst of doing things throughout the day and here and there be talking to God. Like this morning, my little one had such a temper tantrum. After I laid her down for her nap this morning, I had to stop and just ask the Lord how we need to deal with these temper tantrums. I needed Him to help me refocus so I could do school with my older daughter. And He did. My daughter and I have had a good school day and my little one has taken a really good nap (which we both needed – LOL).

    However, I do sometimes struggle with that set apart time of prayer. I don't want it to just become a thing that I check off my list of to-dos: prayed for such and such – check. Prayed for this – check. Prayed for that – check. Know what I mean?

    Hope you have a wonderful Thursday!

  18. RCUBEs

    What a treasure you discovered that prayer is just simply talking to Him, no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing…I think to have a complete awareness that we need Jesus every second of the day, satisfies our longing to connect with Someone Who can always identify with our circumstances and Who is always faithful and does not change. This is a true, personal relationship with Jesus. Your heart just exposed that through this post and I'm so touched and encouraged!
    God bless you!

  19. Prairie Chick

    You can't know the anticipation and serenity that fills me everytime I reach the G's in my google reader =) It's you here, followed by Cynthia at Girl in a Glass House and you girls always rock my world. Imagine how I smiled to read this here, happily click the "share" button and then move on to Cynthia's to read this; http://girlinaglasshouse.blogspot.com/2009/08/back-to-basics-discipline-of-prayer.html

    *sweet sigh*. I love you girls.

  20. Heather

    so true. so very true.

  21. elaine @ peace for the journey

    We never know how God intends to use our words. I'm always a bit surprised to learn of people reading the blog for various reasons. I think your response to this person is beautifully scripted and should he/she return, will be grateful for the "accidental" weaving of paths.

    Keep sowing your seed, friend. Love your heart.


  22. Deb

    This is prayer.

    Right where we live.

    Thank you.

    Sweet dreams.


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