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Writing My Way Through (and Into) Faith

by | Oct 5, 2021

Editor’s Note: This is a guest article from Kayla Craig.

I don’t know what I think until I write.

I grab a coffee-stained notebook and whatever discarded pen I can get my hands on and let the ink—and my heart—hit the page. When I write, I enter into a sacred space. Holy moments are no longer relegated to high-minded church pews or stuffy sanctuaries. I meet God on the page, in the dotted i’s and crossed t’s, in the margins of my real life.

It’s easy to believe that faithful writing must be formulaic. Hit these notes, follow this path. But in my experience of writing modern liturgies—accessible, nuanced prayers meant for others to enter into—I find myself appreciating a sacred spontaneity within my words.

When I write liturgy, I enter into a conversation with the divine. I no longer have to follow the hard news constraints of my journalism days—if I bury the lede, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing to get right. I simply go, releasing myself into the rhythms of freewriting. I can let my ego, my inner critic, rest. I believe in a God of all things who already knows me intimately. I don’t have to have the perfect words.

The pressure, finally, is off.

As a writer, I’m often expected to write shareable social media posts or catchy, clickbaity newsletters. But I’ve found that spiritual writing is deeply personal. And while I hope to eventually give readers words to pray when they aren’t sure they can muster one more word, my prayers start out as simply listening.

What am I holding?

What am I feeling?

What am I processing?

About two pages into my sloppy scrawl I begin to see what was there all along. I don’t write prayers to change God’s mind—I write to hold onto my own faith. I write to know myself better, and in that, I begin to see the love of God in a deeper, more expansive way.

When I started crafting the manuscript of my new book, To Light Their Way: A Collection of Prayers & Liturgies for Parents, I felt myself accepting an invitation to enter into empathy.

My prayers that started as personal explorations became something bigger. The paragraphs were no longer my private freewrites—the stanzas were being shaped and molded to include the experiences of many.

Writing faithfully means not only listening to your own soul but to the heartbeats of another, too. The power of liturgy is that it’s not simply navel-gazing. It unites us—praying one prayer, in one accord. 

As I write, I’m aware of the limitations I have as a white, middle-class woman. I am grateful to the many, varied parents across race, gender, and socioeconomic status who have graciously allowed me into their experiences. 

My liturgies reflect single parents, bereaved parents, foster parents, parents who are in blended families, parents of teens, parents of adults who have flown the nest, and more. Their fingerprints are found all over these prayers.

None of us has all the answers about the nature of God. Sometimes it feels like I have no answers at all. But the glorious thing about prayer is that we don’t have to be right—we just have to show up.

It’s said that Ernest Hemingway once said writing is easy—one has to just get to a typewriter and bleed. Praying is a little like that.

When we pray, we give our hurt—our worries about our kids, ourselves, the world—over to God. We share our doubts, our anxieties, and our fears like a child listing off his worries before bedtime.

When we’re faithful in our writing—and honest in our prayer—we learn about the desires of our hearts and create an offering for others, too.

I never set out to write a book of prayers.

But being faithful to my craft and stubborn in my faith has brought me on many an unexpected journey. My prayers here are steeped in listening: to the headlines, to our children, to the whispers of the wind, to the women and men whose parenting journeys—and indeed, very lives—have looked different than mine.

I’m an (overly caffeinated) mother to four young children. And I’ve found that, much like raising children, writing out of my spiritual experiences and into prayers comes with no instructions.

If you’d like to dabble into your own faith explorations, my advice is simply to do it.

Cast off all the writing rules you’ve absorbed. Close your computer. Grab a notebook. And listen. To yourself. To your neighbor. And to God.

What shows up on the page might surprise you.

And it might just be what another person needs to read.

Kayla Craig is a former journalist, a podcaster, and the author of To Light Their Way: A Collection of Prayers & Liturgies for Parents. Written with warmth and welcome, To Light Their Way gives voice to your prayers when words won’t come. Filled with more than 100 modern liturgies, this book guides you into an intentional conversation with God. These pleas and petitions act as a gentle guide, reminding us that while our words may fail, God never does.

Connect with Kayla on Instagram and subscribe to her Liturgies for Parents newsletter.