What feels like a prayer to me is this …

What feels like a prayer to me is this …

I don’t often tell people I’m praying for them because those words somehow feel false in my mouth. But I think about those people all the time, and to me that feels like a prayer.

I decided after being on Facebook since 2008 that the glib comments saying “prayers” are a quick reaction not always carried through. I decided to stop saying it unless I really, really meant it. Instead, I say a few whispered words right on the spot.

Imagine if there were a division somewhere called the prayer police, actively coming after us for saying one thing and not carrying through.

“Ma’am, you told Susan you’d be praying for her and you didn’t carry through. That’ll be a $250 fine.”

It’s a good thing we have freedom of religion in this country. It means I can pray how I want, my Muslim son-in-law can pray how he wants and my good friend can commune in the forest as the wind whistles through her hair.

I don’t need the moral majority coming after me, but they can if they want — I don’t really ascribe to them anyway.

I’d like to spend some time sitting in silence — maybe meditating instead of scrolling on my phone in an infinite circle. It’s often called doom scrolling.

But I’ve learned a lot from my aunt. Throughout a recent struggle with severe illness, she never stopped liking and leaving little comments on my IG stories. In her darkest hours of pain, there she was, taking the time to give me a kind word or comment on whatever was going on in my life.

I realized we often think we should take a social media break to bring mental clarity, but for some of us, it’s a lifeline. We often say we need to stay off so we can concentrate, but for some of us, it brings life being able to see the people we love. For my aunt the “social” part of social media brought her connection, a lifeline in a dark abyss.

I remember she once asked me if I found God in certain songs. The songs she found them in were decidedly secular songs, and in that moment she cut a tie that bound my heart, giving me the freedom to know I should never be tied to one way of communing.

I didn’t tell my aunt I was praying for her because my heart was with her constantly. She knew that. And that felt like a prayer to me.

I would rather have someone send me a heart emoji or a funny meme than the seriousness of everyone on their knees beseeching God for my life. God knows what’s up, and he’s holding it in his hands anyway. He hears our groans. I believe my own groans have turned into their own language.

I’m not telling anyone not to pray; I’m simply saying let’s think about the words, “I’m praying for you.” If you mean it, then say it. If you don’t mean it, please swallow the words before saying them. Our words mean something, and by saying meaningless ones, we abuse the intention.

My head was scrambled when George had his heart attack last year. I had several people regularly check in on me who never once told me they were praying. They asked how I was, did I need anything, could they bring me supper. They dropped off small bags filled with goodies or slipped a gift card for gas into my pocket.

They spoke prayers over me without ever praying.

George was raised Catholic. When he was little and lost on the streets of Oaxaca, he would go into the big cathedrals for refuge. He didn’t know how to pray but felt wrapped in the warm silence these buildings held for him. He felt safe, despite not knowing how they worshipped.

Sometimes an economy of words is better than the lifeless repetition of words we say without thinking. Someone bringing me a bottle of wine or a piece of cheesecake as my husband lay in that hospital bed was someone who knew my love language. They knew the words and actions I needed instead of false ones spoken out of having no words to say.

And that felt like a prayer to me.

Melissa Herrera is a published author and opinion columnist. She is a curator of vintage mugs and all things spooky, and her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” can be found at www.tinyurl.com/Tonolives. For inquiries, to purchase her book or anything else on your mind, email her at junkbabe68@gmail.com or find her in the thrift aisles.

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