Last week, I realized that my book needed a chapter dedicated to non-verbal prayer. After I reviews some talks I’ve had with Orthodox people and families living with disabilities, it became clear to me that this is a resource that’s desperately needed. I’ve already offered a non-verbal prayer card kit on this site, which you can find HERE and a tutorial on praying with a prayer silk HERE. But those are only two of dozens of ways to pray without words.
Because some of my children have spent years being non-verbal or are still emerging in their verbal abilities, and because I also prefer to pray in silence when my heart is full, I have a lot of experience with non-verbal prayer. Even so, I didn’t realize how many ways we pray without words until I brought up the idea of including non-verbal prayers in my book to my sister who served for many years as a religious education director of Catholic parishes. She and I started naming our favorite ways to pray without words. We came up with so many ideas that we realized we’d probably need to write other books just to tell everyone about the practices!
My book – Of Such is the Kingdom: A Practical Theology of Disability – that’s coming out this fall from Ancient Faith Publications will have more examples, but for now, I offer these three ways to help you pray when you don’t have words.
- Cast Your Cares upon the Lord by placing photos, names, or objects under a cross or a holy icon. I’ve sometimes written names or prayer requests on post-it notes and placed them next to a holy icon or under a cross on the wall or a table. Many people I know bring up people they love in prayer by tucking photos of loved ones into the spaces under their holy icons or crosses. The action of bringing objects, images, or names to God and leaving them in a place will help you to develop the habit of trusting God.
- Walk With Jesus by moving around the room to the sound of sacred music. You can play liturgical music or a favorite hymn or listen to the music in your head if you are so musically inclined. The key is to walk, or to move in rhythm as well as you can, to the music. If you cannot hear, this exercise can be done to the feeling of bass from lively or louder hymn settings or to the rhythm of a sound visualizer. By letting the music speak for you, you can respond with your body in this type of prayer to help you remember that God is with you, always at your right hand, always guiding you along like a shepherd.
- He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands. Print out this map from the PDF file below (includes both the multi-saint and Jesus-only cut out versions). Simply cut along the dotted line, cut out the icons of saints or the Lord, and place the icons on the places on the map in order to pray for them. You can also print out a map of your local community and pray for your city or your friends and neighbors using the icon cut-outs. This visual and movement-based prayer helps you see that the world is looked after by God.
Try some of these methods of praying this week for yourself and any nonverbal family members, and remember that God is with you and loves you.
What is your favorite way to pray without words? Continue the conversation in the comments. Please share this blog post so others can find it, too.
I’m wrapping up the writing for my forthcoming book this month, but you can find more of my Special Needs Resources including free printables here and on the Of Such is the Kingdom site. Make sure to follow this blog to keep up with posts. In June, I’ll be speaking at the sold out Ancient Faith Writing and Podcasting Conference. I’ll share more about the conference and how to book me as a speaker later this summer.