By Hailey Joy Scandrette
I thrive on connection: connection with people, connection with God– the more intimate, frequent, and dependable the better. I almost constantly crave a sense of knowing others and being known by them. Lately I’ve been realizing that this connection-seeking urge is a deeply fundamental part of who I am. Which was probably already painfully obvious to people who knows me, but I hadn’t quite put it into words until sometime in the past year. The more I reflect on it the more I recognize the parts and patterns of my life that have been shaped by my desire for connection. It has certainly shaped my spiritual practices for as long as I can remember.
Beginning when I was a small child, prayer has always been one of my most routine and frequent spiritual practices. As a kid I unknowingly trained myself into certain prayer rhythms, some of which were almost like superstitious rituals. I’d pray every time I heard a firetruck or an ambulance, which was usually a handful of time every day in my neighborhood. When I was 7, after the planes crashed into the two tours in New York, I’d pray every time the clock read 9:11. In bed at night I’d often pray for everyone I knew, and even for quite a few people I didn’t know, I’d always feel guilty when I got too sleepy to say every name. I’d drift off and wake up from half-sleep because I’d realized I left someone out.
Sometimes these rituals still kick in like old habits, but as I’ve gotten older my relationship with prayer has changed slightly. For one thing, I recognize that prayer is largely something I do for myself and for the people around me. God already knows what I need, and I what I wish for myself and others. There’s already a plan in place. I don’t really know if prayer changes the outcomes of life’s challenges, or if it just changes the person praying. Prayer is a way for me to connect. It connects me to God by reminding me to intentionally put my hopes, needs and fears into words and trust that when I confide in God I am being heard and cared for, even if I don’t know how. It also helps me to connect with others by keeping their hopes, needs and fears on my mind and in my heart.
Praying has also become more casual for me since I’ve gotten older. I’ve let go of offsetting every prayer with “amen,” and instead of designated times and subjects for prayer, it’s more like God and I are in semi-constant conversation throughout the day… or at least, I’m semi-constantly talking God’s ear off. This informal rhythm provides little check-points for connection with God whenever I need them. If I read a news article that makes me sad, or see a sunset that makes me happy, I pause to connect. I often set aside a little time to pray and journal at the end of the day as well, but it’s the moments of pausing and connecting that make me feel close to God.
One of my favorite quotes about prayer is from Anne of Green Gables,
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep woods, and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.
I’ve discovered that despite being a very wordy, verbal person, I don’t always need words to pray. It can certainly be helpful to put my prayers into words, but sometimes I just need to feel my prayers. It gives me space to stop trying to make sense of everything, to stop trying to make it all fit neatly into syllables and sounds, and to just be. I’m not always able to let go of words and just sit with feelings, it’s not something that’s instinctual for me. But when I’m able to find little moments where I can just be and feel a prayer, those are often the moments where I find the most spiritual connection.
Of course prayer doesn’t always result in a sense of connection. As much as I would love to be filled with a constant, unwavering, strong sense of closeness with God and the people around me, I don’t think that’s something many people figure out how to maintain, and it’s certainly not something I should expect myself to have figured out at age 22. Still, leaving the channels for connection open through prayer helps to ground me in the present and offers a reminder that no matter how isolated and unconnected I feel, I’m not actually alone.
Author Bio: Hailey Joy Scandrette is a senior at San Francisco State University studying US History, and Counseling. When not ears deep in primary source analysis and note taking, she enjoys thrift shopping, writing, climbing trees, and going on long walks with her friends and family. She is passionate about social justice, living incarnationally, loving and serving others, and almost anything else that she has any opinion on.