Early this past summer—on one night when we managed to eat dinner together as a family, I asked the kids if they had anything they'd like to pray about. At first there was silence. But then my 5-year-old daughter said in her sweetest, calmest voice, "How about we pray about poo?" Then she smiled wickedly at her brothers who nearly fell off their chairs laughing.
Now I've been down this road in my own life. I grew up Christian. I know this drill. And I was ready to beat them at their game.
"Greta," I said. "What a terrific thing to pray for. Okay, let's pray." And as we bowed our heads, and folded our hands, I launched in to a prayer for poo. I thanked God for food that turns into poo. I thanked God for indoor plumbing and toilet paper (this got more giggles). So I took a more serious turn: I thanked him for the miracle of our bodies, specifically our digestive tracks. I prayed for people who suffered from "bad poos" (total giggles) and who were sick in other ways. This led us to a prayer for the children around the world who suffered digestion issues because of lack of food and contaminated water.
We ended by thanking God for sending Jesus—for being willing to become a God who pooed—as a model for a way to live and for a sacrifice for our sins.
I was pretty amazed at where an honest prayer about poo could lead.
Starting with Stream-of-Consciousness
This experience opened my eyes to a whole new way of praying, especially in those seasons or moments when you feel a loss for what to pray. Or when you know you need to connect with God but just don't even know where to begin.
My kids call these random, start-with-anything prayers our "Poo-Poo Prayers," but I think of them more as "Stream-of-Consciousness Prayers"—perhaps, for you modern literature buffs, how Virginia Woolf or William Faulkner might have prayed.
Here's what I do: When I know I need to chat with God but am feeling distracted or when I'm desperate with need but at a loss for where to start, I'll look around my cluttered office or at what lies ahead of me through the windshield and I pick something. Then I start praying about it.
I've started prayers thanking God for the little Wheaties box/picture frame perched on the bookshelf by my desk. This has taken me to prayers for my son (whose tee-ball team picture it encases) and to each member of my son's tee-ball team. That prayer once ended with a call that each of my kids discovers their gifts and gets to live out their passion. Another time (I use this Wheaties box a lot!) it ended with a blessing for professional athletes, particularly those caught in the grips of substance abuse or rough lifestyle choices.
Last week I spied a cop tucked under a viaduct, with her radar gun pointed my way. Of course, my first prayer was that her radar didn't pick up my speediness, but after that I began praying for her. Then my prayer drifted into my deep gratitude for the freedom we enjoy in this country. It ended with a harvest-time prayer for farmers. No idea how it got there. But that's the cool part.
My two-year-old always wants to pray for "choo-choos." You'd be amazed at where those prayers for trains can go. From gratitude for mass transit to prayers for commuters and lonely travelers to thanks for the amazing minds who design trains and for the amazing bodies who built the rails so many years agoto asking for a bigger burden to be placed on my family to care for creation.
No More Same-Old, Same-Old
I can't tell you necessarily why or how my heart, mind, and soul end up in the places they do, but I love this stream-of-consciousness exercise of stretching in prayer, of getting creative and broad in what I bring before God. Because usually, when I remember to pray, I fall into the trap of praying for the same old things. Specifically, the same old things I tend to grumble about again and again. Not that God doesn't want to hear these grumbles. But I think we can get stuck here.
Letting our brains meander in prayer and then pushing our hearts outward when they want to hunker down allows us to see and honor the bigger world around us. Starting prayers with a simple object or person or need right in front of our noses and then opening our hearts and minds to the issues that surround it, help us push past the typical or the trite and allow us to see needs through a broader scope.
Praying this way has helped me better understand my place, purpose, and responsibility right where God has put me. I know it sounds silly—or maybe dramatic—but it's at once helped me appreciate what I have and break my heart for the things the world doesn't have. It's helped me see past my own hardships, sorrows, disappointments, and frustrations to see deep into a world of hurt and hardship that we so often miss.
But ultimately these random, meandering poo-poo prayers remind me that praying is talking to Jesus. Entering into a conversation with him. A conversation that can start with anything—just like we do with friends. And that we can bring before him what it is right in front of our noses and that which lies deep in our hearts, minds, and souls. Or for that matter our bowels.
Caryn Rivadeneira is managing editor of GiftedforLeadership.com and author of Mama's Got a Fake ID (WaterBrook).
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
Click here for reprint information.
Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women
Read These Next
- Teen-Proof DevotionsWhat do e-mail, CDs, and banana splits have in common? They're all keys to family devotions your teenager might actually enjoy.
- Waiting for God to SpeakPsalm 28
Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter