I stamped the words on 50 half-sheets of paper. “I’m praying for you.”
The notes were typewritten, photocopied and then stamped with a promise of prayer for 50 inmates of an Iowa prison. I sent the notes out the door with my husband, who is on the other side of the razor wire this weekend for a three-day retreat with prisoners. The prisoners receive letters from folks on the “outside” — a bit of reassurance in their hands that someone cares.
Over and over again, I pressed crimson ink onto white paper:
I’m praying for you.
I’m praying for you.
I’m praying for you.“Pray without ceasing …” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Paul said we should pray continually, yet my efforts fall woefully short.
“I’m praying for you.” How many times have I spoken those words, written the words — over the phone, at the back of the sanctuary, in a get-well card, in a blogger’s comment box — and then forgotten entirely to do what I promised?
“I’m praying for you,” I say. And then I don’t do it.
I used to faithfully keep a prayer journal. It was my way of keeping it all straight. There’s just so much heartache — lost jobs, miscarriages, cancer, marriages on the rocks. Journaling was my way of making sure I did what I promised, my way of keeping it straight. I wrote it all down, praying as ink hit paper.
But over the last year, the span between dated entries has widened. I opened the journal just now to see when I recorded the last entry.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t cut off communication with God for the past two months. He’s my Lifeline. But I have failed miserably at intercessory prayer. I have a stack of prayer requests that my brain can’t file or sort. Yet I’m trying to live up to dozens of five-word promises: “I will pray for you.”
It’s not working.
Now, I know that prayer isn’t answered based on how articulately worded my requests are. Prayers are answered because God is … well … God. I also know that the Holy Spirit can turn my helpless sighs and groans into prayers. (Check out Romans 8:26 for proof; it’s pretty cool stuff.)
But I can do better than offering a few half-hearted intercessions sprinkled here and there throughout the day. This girl at “Getting Down with Jesus” needs to “get down” on her knees before the Father.
So this is my do-over
I’m coming clean with you,
and I’m coming clean with God.
He’s the God of second chances,
the God of 50th chances,
the God of 643rd chances.And I’m in need of another chance
I started over this week, recommitting to structured prayer time. And I just wanted to let you know.
It all started with a crimson-stained stamp in my hand.
Each time red ink hit paper, I prayed. And I meant it.
Fifty prisoners will get these letters this weekend. Each letter says I prayed for the man who received it. I can stand in the knowledge that I did what I said I would do.
But I have another matter to settle. And I’ll take this one to my crimson-stained God. It starts right here — right now — with handwritten words I’m recording by pen in my journal:
June 11, 2009 — “This is a do-over God. Help me. If I’m really believing in the power of prayer — I mean, if I’m really believing it — I need to get down on my knees. Drop me to my knees, Lord. This girl is Getting Down.”