Today I'm honored to host the lovely Micha Boyett. Her first book "Found: a story of grace, questions and everyday prayer" releases today. I wrote an endorsement for this beautifully written memoir and highly recommend it. Micha has generously offered three copies of her book to my readers. To enter, please leave a comment.
Before I had kids, I was on staff with a non-denominational evangelical youth ministry, working with students at various high schools. On the random days when I wasn’t meeting volunteers, parents, and kids all over town, I worked out of a donated office at the local Episcopal church, down the hall from the priests and church staff.
One day, prior to making a difficult phone call to the angry father of one of my students, I paced the floor beside my desk, overrun with anxiety. I couldn’t pick up the phone to dial that number. Just as I was giving myself a lecture about bravery and berating my tendencies toward conflict-avoidance, I found myself standing outside the pastor’s office next door. She was sitting at her desk, as if she had been waiting for me to arrive.
I took a deep breath, walked into her office, and asked her pray for me. We sat down together and in near-silence prayed for ten minutes. Finally, Pastor Beverly opened her mouth and her few words were weighty and humble and powerful.
I’d lived my life in church circles that valued words in prayer—smart words! holy words! culturally relevant words!—and I had run out of words. I was at a point in my spiritual life where I didn’t know what to say to God anymore. I was worn out. I was anxious. I was failing at prayer. (I always felt like I was failing at prayer.)
So that near-silent prayer with Pastor Beverly was profound. She held my hands and prayed, “Come Holy Spirit.” And we waited together for the Holy Spirit to come, as if we believed God’s Spirit was actually en route to me, to that phone, to the angry father who was waiting on the other line. She sat in silence with me as if she believed I was worth her time, as if the ministry God wanted to offer me was there, in the silence. And it was. The ministry was the silence.
I left her office, called the student’s father, and let that quiet prayer ping around in me for several days. I didn’t really understand what made that time of prayer different. All I knew was that I wanted to experience that sort of silence again. I wanted to pray with less words and more belief. I wanted to give people my time, and in doing so, acknowledge that God was there with us, remaking us.
A few weeks later I went back to Pastor Beverly and asked her to teach me contemplative prayer. I wasn’t sure what I was hoping to learn from her. Prayer had always been something I performed at, both in public and in private. I worked hard to worship correctly, to ask for God’s intervention at the right time with the truest spirit of contrition. And I had come to a place where I was heavy laden by my expectations for myself. I needed a path out of that pattern. I needed to believe that God was willing to sit with me, whether or not I followed my internal rules for what prayer was supposed to look like.
We began meeting and praying together and I promised myself that I would be brave; I would risk something in those hours we spent together. I began praying with beads in my hands. I kneeled and repeated prayers written hundreds of years ago. I began (gasp!) staring at icons and asking God to use all my senses in prayer.
And, over time, I began to believe that God heard my quiet heart louder than my impressive words. I began to experience a God bigger than language, bigger than culture, bigger than my own performance.
Prayer, it turned out, is not a task that allows me to find God. Prayer is the work God uses to let me know I’ve already been found.
I wrote a memoir of the story of rediscovering prayer through the Rule of St. Benedict. The story of my book begins a couple of years later, a year into my life as a mother. But our stories always begin earlier than the first page of the book lets on, don’t they?
And the story of my finding and being found just might begin in Pastor Beverly’s office, in the silence.
Maybe silence is the space where our stories always begin.
Micha (pronounced "MY-cah") Boyett is a writer, blogger, and sometimes poet. Her first book Found: A Story Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer is available for pre-order and releases April 1. A born and raised Texan, Micha lives in San Francisco with her husband, Chris, and their two sons. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at michaboyett.com.