Stretching a Prayer

This is my seventh hour in the classroom, and the sun surprises me, clearing up my coffee mug with fresh peppermint tea.

Today even the boys band together. They’re wearing pink t-shirts for a reason. Especially the basketball players. One sits at the back of my room. But he’s not reading, at least not like the others.

He’s catching a floating feather. He drops it over the vent to study its path. The air pushes it up. It falls to his outstretched hand. Every time.

Today we listened to Wilco and a clarinet concerto, but it’s all in the background now as we read our way through these things.

Like how Chandler’s mom has cancer. Again.

Some of this noise has to shut down at 4 p.m. every day. Even a heating unit needs to rest.

But then the drop ceiling makes a crackling noise. Like a glacier. I’m left at my desk, surrounded by four walls, frozen in an empty room with the tension that has me breathing without moving my chest.

This room snapped, broke off like an ice floe at 3:05 p.m., and for 55 minutes now, I’ve been drifting.

Sitting, really. And while the clock on the wall ticks, I listen to the distant doors close, maybe open in the hallway.

There were 132 other voices trapped inside this space today. Those sounds need to escape now, too.

And so this drop ceiling crackles again, over and over, popping like a sheet of ice.

Like my arms, legs. And back.

Finally, I shut off my computer, but even work is energy that can be neither created nor destroyed.

Then, to my left, I see that rubber band at the edge of my desk. Like a promise looped over in overlapping circles.

Relaxed. Ready. Like a promise.

It’s time to pull this prayer back a little farther.

And aim. Because that boy’s feather just won’t do.


This post is being shared with Laura Boggess for …

And also with L.L. Barkat for …
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And also with Michelle DeRusha for …

26 thoughts on “Stretching a Prayer

  1. I’ve been studying prayer lately. Never doubt the power of bold, persistent praying. It seems to us like pestering God sometimes. But he’s the one who gave us the parable of the persistent widow to show us that we should pray and never give up.

  2. Ah, Matthew…your writing always makes me slow down and by the time I reach the end of the piece, I realize I’m breathing more deeply…sighing, actually. Maybe I hold my breath as I read?

    • My breathing felt pretty icy while I sat at my desk. My body was tensed up. But once I realized it, I was so thankful to find that loose rubber band.

      And so I’ve left it resting there ever since.

    • That feather fell off a cloud. Part of a giant, cardboard rainbow at the back of my room. Students had used it for a hallway decorating project earlier last semester. But this was where that particular student sat last week, doing his feathery experiments, directly underneath its curve.

      Someone had painted “We Believe” on it. That was a few months ago …

    • Oh, I wouldn’t be surprised if your children received more prayers from their teachers than you realized. A lot happens in an empty classroom. Or even inside a busy head at home in the evenings.

      Prayer often rises up from the unlikeliest of places.

      And thank you for your prayer and blessing here. A beautiful case in point. Be blessed, friend.

  3. Oh, that my sons had teachers who prayed for them – it is such a blessing when they do. I know when I taught college English, I prayed for my students! Your rubber band made me think of how the Holy Spirit gives our featherlight prayers power to reach the Father. I like how sounds are released, evaporated:)

    • Yes, we’re all surrounded by a world in need of prayer. I think of Jesus here. Every road was a classroom, full and overflowing. Sometimes it’s all too easy for me to dull my attention and close my eyes. How did Jesus do it? And then I am reminded that I have access to the same power …

      Sometimes I need to shoot a few rubber bands in the directin of my own face. To wake myself up. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. I love that the rubber band appeared so relaxed and ready and I love that you saw the promise in its resilience and the power in pulling your prayer back to aim! I love the way God puts these visuals before us…and especially you! Your ability to see what others might miss is the reason you are such an excellent writer! You have said so much within this short post…so much food for thought here! Praying for Chandler’s mom!

    • Thank you for your prayers, Lorraine. You’re a blessing.

      Our prayers can take so many shapes, can’t they? We must remember the larger “promise in the resilience”. Good words. May we never let our prayers grow old and brittle.

  5. A feather isn’t going to find the Father. . the temporary rush of something floating heavenward, only to have it fall back unchanged. And our prayers, they are precise, straight to the Father.
    We shut out the noise, but He is still there. That is the beautiful.
    I am always eager to read every new post you tap here Matthew. Keep writing my friend.

    • And Matthew. I know you are a teacher. I am sure a very gifted one.
      I wrote a post not too long ago called AN ADJECTIVE that I wanted to share with you. Maybe it will speak to your heart as a teacher. . I imagine writing or literature?

      • Thanks for the link, by the way. I read it before school this morning and will be re-reading soon. I love your writing, the way your pictures – and His truth – slowly turn and sparkle in the Light.

    • That feather might be so beautiful. But it won’t get anywhere by trying to move in its own strength, even with the best of intentions. Praise God we have access to a higher power and precision. Always good to hear from you, Danelle. Your encouragement means a lot.

  6. You brought me there, Matthew. Sounds like this was an exercise in self-awareness – of being in the present. The part about the rubberband at the end leaves me hanging in anticipation. I’m waiting for the sting, the snap.

    • A rubber band can hold a lot of energy. Just today I was talking with a student about kinetic energy and potential energy. He understands much more than I. Makes me think how my prayers are like that — full of one-sided mystery.

      Mysterious and heavy grey skies on my side. But brilliant sun just above my head. A stretched out prayer works like a plane, doesn’t it? It moves our vision up there. I guess that’s the beauty of prayer.

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