I glanced into the prayer room, hoping it would be empty, but it wasn’t. Becky was there. The sun was shining quite brightly into the prayer room, and somehow Becky’s smile was brighter.
Becky had invited me to pray with her today. She texted me earlier in the week, and I had composed a text with an excuse as to why I couldn’t join her, but then I had forgotten to send it. Her reminder text to me, which arrived at 7AM that morning, was as so perky I could feel her smiling through it. “Oh, Sara! God is good!!! See you soon for prayer:)” The blinking cursor next to my unsent message stared up at me with guilt.
The purpose of the prayer room was, obviously, prayer… anytime. But on Sunday mornings during the service the church staff tried to get volunteers to gather in the room to spend a whole hour praying for the congregation.
Becky had explained it to me this way, “Imagine that we are blanketing the service with prayer.”
This sounded tremendously dull to me. I’ve prayed before, but I don’t like to do it. It never feels real. It’s like I’m ticking through a list. I had hoped that Becky might not have arrived yet and I could claim that I missed her.
Becky was there, though, and that meant that I would be praying with her today. I gave Becky a limp thumbs up as I sat down opposite her in one of the empty chairs.
She asked me some standard Sunday morning fill-in-the-blank-type questions. (How was your week? Sure is cold, isn’t it?) and then she got down to business and handed me a prayer-request list from the church staff. I glanced down the list and saw several expected kinds of requests. Lots of sick relatives. Missionary stuff. Etc.
I looked up at her and tried to return her smile, but I didn’t have the wattage. Instead I summoned a phony-pained look and said, “Hmm, quite a list.” I took a breath and made my play. I suggested that perhaps I could take the list to the back of the sanctuary and pray over the congregation while listening to the sermon. (See, this way I wouldn’t have to pray.)
She didn’t dim her smile, but she altered it slightly and said, “Well, we’re really supposed to stay in here just in case anyone comes in for prayer during the sermon.”
I said, “Oh, that’s no problem. You can just text me if anyone comes in.”
Becky caught me with an “oh you” look and said, “Remember we’re supposed to turn our phones off during prayer?”
The phone suggestion had been my last stab at freedom. I settled into the chair and said, “Ok, Becky. Let’s pray.”
Becky took out her Bible and said, “I’ll start.” She closed her eyes and her face began to quiver. It was as though she was standing on the edge of a stage, preparing for her cue. She lifted a finger to her eyebrow, twisted her lips slightly, and then began to pray.
For the next 10 minutes Becky prayed an impressive, spontaneous verbal barrage of clean, dense, packed prayer. She had an inexhaustible supply of admiration to apply toward God. She praised God for his holiness (something I always felt unnecessary because he must already know). She confessed sin that was yet unnamed among the church’s congregation (which was distracting because suddenly I was picturing people doing things) and then she concluded with a completely guileless, sincere personal statement of sublime godly love for all… things.
For a few moments there was silence in the room. I could hear Becky breathing from the exertion of her effort. Faint singing came from the direction of the sanctuary down the hall.
Then Becky opened one eye and looked at me. She smiled and whispered, “Your turn.”
Zary Fekete has worked as a teacher in Moldova, Romania, China, and Cambodia. They currently live and work as a writer in Minnesota. They have previously been published in Goats Milk Mag, Shady Grove Literary, Journal of Expressive Writing, Ginosko Literary Journal, SIC Journal, Warp10Fiction, Reflex Fiction, Potato Soup Journal, Cholla Needles, and Rabid Oak. They enjoy reading, podcasts, and long, slow films.