One of my favorite volunteer jobs was praying over the phone.
It was exactly as it sounds -- people called into the charity asking about hours, directions, if we had a donated washing machine, a newborn car seat, someone to fix a car, or whatever they needed. As part of answering their questions, my task was to conclude in prayer. I literally prayed for everything -- hot water heaters, jobs, ailing dogs, family concerns, and one time for the benevolence of the Duke Energy Power Company.
I must have gotten pretty good as I was promoted to praying in the charity's grocery and used clothing aisles. Once again, I would pray in awkward ways among the donated vegetables and piles of jeans. Offering prayers in humble, unlikely places always had a way of deeply connecting with people. Most folks were beyond grateful for someone to hear their hearts. Even my simple and ordinary prayers offered in the midst of the canned goods aisle were very appreciated.
For real, I had never been someone who loved praying out loud, and praying that way felt deeply awkward. I thought prayer was what you did on your own, in the solemn glow of the stained glass church windows. Prayers were the elegant words offered by well-trained Biblical people during Sunday church, lovely meals, or beautiful occasions. Prayer wasn't something that amateurs like me could do, or really do very well. I mean I hadn't even read the whole Bible at that point.
But God, in His wisdom showed me differently. In that season, I came to love praying awkwardly and without the stuff that I thought made up a good-sounding prayer. Because I prayed everywhere and over pretty much everything, it stripped away all my insecurities and notions of what my prayers needed to sound like. It became like talking to a friend.
Even though I'm not a volunteer there anymore, I still love being asked to pray. I know if I'm not careful, I find myself at times defaulting to the prayers reserved for special times and places. When someone asks me to pray, I do my best to honor that request right then and there, not for some far-off sacred space.
I think the best prayers happen exactly where they are needed, right when they are needed. Recently, my friend and I were sharing prayer requests in the parking lot. As we were saying goodbye, I said I would pray over her concerns, but was immediately reminded not to wait. Right in the busy asphalt shopping center, we offered prayers to the Father. We didn't wait for a lofty, hallelujah moment. We prayed in perfect, awkward, parking-lot-prayer-style. I know God still hears us if we are praying from parking lots, or among the beautiful sounds of the Sunday choir.
Do you want to know how to love awkward prayers? Pray constantly, pray wherever and whenever you are. Pray immediately when asked. Let go of needing to sound super spiritual or Biblical. God hears your heart when you present your requests in truth and love. Pray like Christ is listening in blue jeans among the vegetables.
Your prayers may be clunky like mine or elegant like trained pastors. But God loves all prayers, especially ones given in humble and unlikely places.
Pray constantly, anywhere and everywhere you are invited.