On Prayer & the Table & my friend Margaret
By: Shauna Niequist
I’ve learned by now that when Margaret is praying for something, that something is happening. I’ve known her well for six years. What I mean by known well is that the amount of time we’ve spent around the table together is somewhere in the thousands of hours. We’ve traveled together, cried together, visited one another in the hospital. We’ve texted, laughed, cried, taken road trips. She’s a cake baker, a lover of good paper, a thoughtful gift giver, and she is a woman who prays. And she’s teaching me.
When she prays at our table, she always begins the same way: ‘Hey God, it’s us.” Wherever my life takes me, fifty years from now I’ll still remember this season and this house and the stretch of time when Margaret began our Thursday night dinners with those intimate, beautiful words, “Hey God, it’s us.”
She doesn’t just pray at the table, of course—she prays when she walks and when she nurses Eloise. She wakes up in the night to pray, and whispers prayers as she falls asleep.
Many years ago, she felt deep unease about a friend’s upcoming wedding. She prayed and prayed and when she sensed she had to say something, she risked their friendship. The friendship broke. But then the engagement broke, too, and the friendship was repaired, because even though Margaret knows things deeply, she holds them gently.
She prayed for me when I was desperate to conceive and carry a healthy pregnancy. She gave me a ring to remind me that she was praying, and to this day when I see it in my jewelry box, I almost weep, remembering the way my friend prayed for me, with confidence and hope I didn’t have.
One of the best things about life around the table—messy and close up and connected, hour after hour, month by month—is that the people whose elbows you knock as you butter your bread begin to become people who rub off on you, who change you, who give you something to aspire to.
Margaret is teaching me to pray, and I’m so thankful to have her around my table on the regular, so that her intimate, connected, passionate, faith-deepening way of living and praying sits close to me as often as possible.
One night last spring, when something truly terrible happened to one of the members of our little tribe, we gathered around the table, and we listened hard. We asked questions. Tell me more. Tell me everything. Tell me what it looks like to love you well in the midst of this mess.
And then we prayed. We joined hands, reached arms around shoulders, pulled in close, and prayed. We prayed for healing and protection, for the binding up of wounds and the presence of God to be apparent in every way. One after another, we prayed.
Because that’s what family does, that’s what a tribe does, that’s what gets us through when everything’s breaking. We show up, reach arms across shoulders, and like my friend Margaret is teaching me, we start with this: “Hey God, it’s us.”
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