Let me introduce you to my friend, Micha. Micha (pronounced “MY-cah”) Boyett is a blogger, writer, and sometimes poet. She shares her story of rediscovering the simplicity of prayer in her recently released memoir Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer. Boyett and her husband live in San Francisco with their two boys. Follow Micha on Facebook and Twitter.
Over the course of the next 6 weeks, I’ve invited friends to share their words in this space as we explore the mysteries of prayer during the Summer Bible Study.
by Micha Boyett
As a girl, I learned to thrive in my church culture. I was sweet, a hard worker, the sort of second grader the grown-ups asked to pray out loud. I was the kid who racked up the most gold stars on the class chart.
I knew the rules for pleasing God.
And though I would never have admitted it, as an adult I lived by the same rules. God was the Ultimate Grown Up and I longed for the assurance that God really loved me, that God was proud of me. Despite my belief in grace, I convinced myself that I could earn a spot among God’s favorites.
Though much of my life of faith was “impressive” (I went into full-time ministry and was a natural leader), I always struggled to pray. I knew what prayer was supposed to look like but I could never seem to live up to my own rules. I’d fall asleep or fail to make it through my gigantic lists of prayer requests. I’d sit before God and struggle to know what to say. I pushed myself to do better.
My time in prayer felt as frantic as the rest of my life.
Most of us reach a point when our ability to achieve collapses underneath the weight of our own frailties. I had a baby and suddenly the lack of sleep and demands of my child undid my ability to strive. The demands of motherhood didn’t crush my wobbly faith; it simply revealed how performance-driven my faith had always been.
I couldn’t try to make God like me any longer. I was exhausted.
When my son was 18 months old, I packed a duffel bag, kissed my husband on the lips, and drove south, alone, toward a Benedictine monastery full of balding, mustached dudes in black robes. By that point, I’d recognized that my love for God was all tangled up in fear—fear that I wasn’t enough, fear that my life was ordinary, fear that my faith was too flimsy to matter in this world. I needed to throw out all the old rules for prayer. I needed to believe that God could love me, with or without my impressive feats of faith.
I went to the monastery because I’d read (in a book by Kathleen Norris) that the Benedictines believe God has actually given us enough time in each day for work and study and rest and prayer. At that point in my life, my mantra was There’s not enough time! I knew something needed to change. I needed to begin to believe in God’s Enough. I longed for prayer to come from a place of love and joy, instead of franticness and fear.
I sat in the old stone chapel for two days and listened to the monks chant the Psalms. I felt they were praying the words for me. And eventually I joined them. I prayed the Psalms as they were, with all their grit and doubt and anger. And I realized God was not afraid of my questions. God was not undone by my weak faith.
In the honesty and desperation of the Psalms, in my ordinary, unimpressive mothering life, I learned to pray again.
The gift of losing prayer has been the revelation that knowing God never depended on me in the first place. All that time when I was striving to undo my failures, to make myself fit for God, God was finding me. I was being found. Maybe prayer is much deeper, and simpler, and richer than I ever imagined. And maybe joy is never found in frantic striving, but in the gentle nearness of God. I’m learning how to “lift up my soul” as Psalm 25 says. And that’s what prayer is, after all. Not a checklist. Not a regimen. Not even a requirement.
It is an invitation to lift our souls to the God-Already-Here.
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Embracing a new way to pray and an old way to God.
Found is a story of nourishment for anyone who hungers for rich spirituality and has come up empty. It’s a story for anyone who is trying to reconcile great big dreams with the ordinariness of their days. It’s a story of discovering divine kindness and affection in the most mundane moments of life.
With brilliant and moving prose, Micha Boyett invites us on a journey to discover the richness in the everyday—and it changes everything.
To win, leave a comment on the original blog post at MargaretFeinberg.com. The three winners will be selected and announced on Friday.
Congratulations to the winners: Lindsay Boynton, Chelsea, and Sonya!