taking the words of Jesus seriously

I don’t do much praying these days.

There was a time when I kept a long list of people and circumstances for which to pray every day, as well as a rigid prayer schedule. I was known for being contemplative and disciplined in this, even as a teenager — rarely missing my morning “devotions,” complete with Bible reading, journaling, and memory verses.

But, at some crucial points in my life, prayer (and praying people) became a source of immense pain. So I let prayer — as a practice — go.

In allowing myself freedom and space from the guilt-driven obligation of prayer (and daily devotions), I discovered that I don’t encounter Jesus in my head, anyway. Rather, I encounter Jesus in vivid, lifelike clarity when I try to imitate him.

I encounter Jesus in the doing. The action. The practice.

Even though I don’t do much planned-praying these days, the action of following Jesus does sometimes draw desperate prayers out of me.

Father forgive them; for they know not what they do” is a prayer I find myself praying on repeat. 

I pray it when I am disturbed, infuriated, enraged at whoever “they” are that day — raising my voice on a walk in the woods, where only the trees and earth beneath my feet can absorb my fury!

I pray it out loud on an otherwise silent drive to the grocery store – white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel and hot, frustration-tears pouring down my face.

I pray it when I come to the end of myself — the end of my knowledge and abilities — and need help from beyond, from outside of myself, to keep going.

If I’m honest, I pray it NOT so my enemy may be forgiven, but for ME.

So that I may be able to see through their words and deeds to
their humanity,
their reachability,
their changeability.

I pray it so that I may love them, or try.

Father forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Jesus cried for his crucifiers. And I pray it with him — not understanding how he could pray it, but praying it anyway, that one day I might understand.

I pray it to remember there is light, even when there is darkness. And there is hope, even when there is hopelessness. I pray it to remember that I believe in the resurrection of dead things.

I pray it for ME.

I’ve seen prayer in this light for quite some time:  a thing I do more to ground myself, to center myself on Jesus, than to implore God to change someone else or the world.

More times than not, I think God uses ordinary, less than supernatural, people to do the world-changing. So, I pray another prayer too:

To those who would ask, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?I pray, “Here I am, send me.”

I am not special, significant, or any sort of savior — I know this now, though I didn’t always. Neither am I a mystic or a missionary. (I’ve tried those identities on and they don’t fit.) But I know something else, too: Jesus becomes more real to me when I act like him — when I love the people he loves. So I keep trying to do so.

I keep trying and failing and trying again. 

And it’s in this practicing that I sometimes catch myself praying. 

Perhaps, for some, prayer leads to practice — though this was not the case for me. Instead, I’ve found that my PRACTICE leads to prayer.

Maybe it is the prayer?

…a small reversal, but an enormous difference.

About The Author


Felicia Melian is a seminary grad, ordained minister, and ex-church planter turned writer, researcher, and aspiring public theologian. She specializes in interrogating the invisible, stagnant, or downright harmful ideas that exist among white evangelicals; especially those that stand in the way of justice. Felicia resides with her husband Gabe in Tampa, Florida. You can find more of her work at FeliciaMelian.com

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