Each morning I have been waking up 30 minutes early to get in a quick workout and to walk the dog around the neighborhood. This is both good and miserable. I would like to tell you that my motives are pure and honorable, but I really just want to look good in sundresses and a bikini this summer.
When I do my little workout video on YouTube my mind is full of thoughts such as: “My muscles are going to burn right off!” and “I might not survive this one!” and “I see a light!”. And many other
realistic, not overly exaggerated musings.
Then I walk the dog and my mind clears. I would have 10 or 15 minutes of solitude and time to think about whatever I wanted. So I decided to use that time to pray.
I grew up going to prayer meetings. Lots of praying happened during Sunday service and Wednesday service. Lots of praying happened before meals, before bed and before sporting events. Since I was very involved in producing church services, I was also intimately aware of the common occurrence of using prayer as a “transition”. If somebody prays while the band leaves and the pastor steps up to the pulpit, an audience with eyes closed and head bowed misses the messy, awkward transition on the stage. Prayer was forced to me. Prayer had become to me a medium of one-sided conversation that was honestly mechanical and trite. I prayed because I should pray. I prayed because that’s what I was supposed to do.
I prayed in very specific ways. The words changed from prayer to prayer, but the form stayed the same. They sounded like everyone else’s prayers. Which was good, because when somebody calls on you to pray in a group setting, it better sound “right”. It better have a beginning, middle, and end with plenty of words that make you sound spiritual! Except, praying the way I thought I should pray did no service to me or my spirituality. It just made me another robot in a trail of robotic ritual and I got nothing out of it other than the ability to check off a box.
I stopped consciously praying for a while because I wanted to deprogram the “should”s and “supposed to”s. I stopped trying to communicate in forced ways and began to just listen in natural ways. During this time, I realized that I could “hear” God in the unconventional. In laughter, in cries, in the blurry voices of a family talking at the same time, in music, in poetry, in jokes, in the voices of children and in the sound of the wind. All of these things are holy and special and ordinary all at the same time.
I wanted my prayers to be holy and special and ordinary all at the same time. So I begin talking to God as I walked my dog.
My prayers don’t necessarily look like a Christian’s prayers.
My prayers don’t necessarily look like a Buddhist’s or a Muslim’s or a Yogi’s or a Jew’s prayers.
My prayers look like… well… a Taylor’s prayers.
A Taylor in mismatched sweats and no makeup. Thinking things like: “I want my life to be significant. I want to contribute and leave something that wasn’t there before. I want to dream and I don’t know where to begin.” Or “That sunrise is gorgeous. Thank you for color” Or “Dang, my dog is cute, huh?”
And I walk. And I think. And I throw in a “Why did that one situation happen? It just sucked. It just freaking sucked.”
And I walk. And I breathe. And I throw in a “That one person is really difficult. I don’t want to be nice. I want to avoid her.”
And I walk. And I listen. To silence, to birds, to the click of my dog’s steps, to cars rushing to early morning jobs, to kids laughing as they walk to school. And I throw in a “How do you find peace?”
And I walk. And I observe. And I throw in a “Blue flowers. Blue flowers are so beautiful”
And I walk. And I talk. To my dog who is suddenly terrified at the sound of a booming bark from a neighborhood dog. And I throw in a “I never feel like I am enough. I know fundamentally that I am enough, but I don’t feel it. I want to feel like I am enough.”
Nothing follows a pattern. Nothing rolls to a rhythm. It’s sporadic and it’s honest. Honest to the point of expressing my anger and frustration.
It is just my mind. My mind communicating to God. With pauses to notice the world around me with wonder. With pauses enough to pay attention.
Praying changes me. Praying calms me and focuses me. But prayer isn’t a magical potion to tip the odds in my favor. I don’t pray to win the game; I pray so I can be a person who is kind and content whether I win or lose. I don’t pray to get the job; I pray so I can be a person who can handle both success and failure. I don’t pray so all the bad situations go away; I pray so I can be a person who uses my mind and my heart to fix the bad situations I can fix and accept the bad situations I cannot fix.
So I walk. And I reach down to pet the dog. And I throw in a “I want to be kind today. I don’t feel warm and squishy today, but I still want to make decisions that are kind to both myself and to those around me.”
I think prayers can still look like a pastor finishing his sermon. I think prayers can still look like a family bowing their heads before a meal or kneeling by the bed at night.
I just also think that prayer can look a lot like walking the dog.