The Narrative Prayer

I wrote recently about the beginning of a weekly prayer service in the Little Darda Church. This is not a mass revival meeting where I can report hundreds coming, healings, and radical transformations. This is more a small, mustard seed type event, where visible growth is visible when you squint your eyes.    One by one, people have found their voices in prayer. That first prayer is always short, exploding out of the person in quick, succinct sentences of both need and thanks.

“I felt ashamed today when I prayed, “ a woman said to me the first day she prayed out loud.

Yes, praying in community forces vulnerability, but vulnerability is key to building deeper community—and encouraging trust, support, and care one for another.

Some have taken their newfound voice to pray during church on Sunday. “Thank you Lord, for untying our lips,” one person prayed.

Others pray in what I have newly dubbed as the ‘narrative prayer.’   When it first began happening, I’ll admit I was confused. A grandmother began talking about her life and then declaring her belief that Jesus was stronger than those people who were putting curses on her. I opened my eyes because I wasn’t sure if she was talking and praying, so she continued her narrative while looking animatedly at me. So I began nodding and ‘hmmming’ along with her as if I was in conversation, only to be startled when she uttered an emphatic AMEN. “Amen,” everyone else repeated, their eyes still closed.

“Oh, she was praying after all, ” I thought.

But last week, as a woman’s prayer narrated a past suicide attempt and other events before she met God, I began to realize there was something very “Psalmesque” about this style of praying. To remember past life events and to recognize where God enters the stories as an reorientation toward the future— isn’t that exactly what many of the Psalmists do?

These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
    and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
    a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my help and my God. Psalm 42


To listen intently to an individual story is to honor the storyteller as a unique and valuable created being.  To listen to a story through the medium of prayer in the presence of God and community is to recognize God’s intimate involvement with that person’s story—and helps point the person and the community toward future faith in God.

In other words, it is kind of like saying:  “Here is what has happened to me, but here’s where God was and is. And now I praise God for what he has done for me.”

I think I might just try it.



8 responses to “The Narrative Prayer

  1. Thanks for sharing this. How beautiful to acknowledge real life blurring the boundaries of those who hear our prayers!

  2. Terry Vanderslice

    I think you just tried it! Amen.

  3. What courage and vulnerability! Oh to cry out to our heavenly Father in loving safe community.

  4. It is fascinating what we can learn and recover from other cultures who are not following “Western conventions” in their approaches to prayer, fellowship, worship, etc. etc. Keep looking for these and you will be able to bless many of us who are stuck in imposed patterns.

  5. Beautiful and its lovely to hear how the community of prayer around the lady listened and values her prayer. Brilliant.

  6. Pingback: The Arm of God | Balkan Voices

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