One of the questions I’m asked most often about prayer is how to pray when you simply Can Not Pray. What do you do then? Usually I offer to pray for the person. “It’s okay if you can’t pray, because I can pray for you.”

And, while I’ll still make that offer, my outlook has changed a bit.

Some of my friends and I went through a bit of a crisis this week. I say “a bit of a crisis” because no one’s life was in jeopardy and no one is about to lose their home or job. In a perfect world, we would have all handled things much better. There would have been no heated phone calls. No tears. No worries. But we are human. We are flawed. And we are Drama Queens. Yes, all of us.

I would love to say that as soon as I got the news, I prayed, but it wouldn’t be true. How could God let this whole situation arise? Was He even paying any attention?

If I had been able to pray, I probably would have been able to sleep. Instead of sleeping, I fretted and, for me, fretting often includes a great deal of whining at God. I won’t call it prayer because its never that well formed. It’s just me whining “what do I do?”

I couldn’t bring myself to open my Bible the next morning, but I did pop open my e-mail. There in my in-box was the Daily Lectionary that I get from the Presbyterian Church USA. The lectionary always includes a morning Psalm and this time around it was Psalm 116 which starts:

[1] I love the LORD, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications.
[2] Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
[3] The snares of death encompassed me;
the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me;
I suffered distress and anguish.
[4] Then I called on the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I pray, save my life!”

Drama Queen that I am, even I had to acknowledge that my life was not in immediate danger, no matter how badly I was behaving. And, even though I hadn’t managed a true prayer, God let me know he was and always would listen, even when all I do is whine.

While this wasn’t really a crisis, no matter how hard we tried to make it into one, I did learn something. When you can’t pray, just speak what is in your heart. Even if it isn’t really a prayer, God will hear you, and He will respond – whether the danger is real or simply in your wild imagination.