In an ever-changing world, I think that our prayer life is constantly in flux. We all wrestle and grow with our faith. We move forward in contemplation only to fall backward again when nothing seems to make sense. Sometimes we scream and shout our prayers. Sometimes we whisper and yearn to be heard. We pray and we doubt. We doubt and we pray. Prayer changes and reflects the seasons of our lives.

As a mother, my prayers have changed.

My prayers during pregnancy and delivery sounded much like pleas for health and safety.

My prayers during the first few weeks at home with my daughter were full of exhaustion figuring out how to read her cries.

My prayers while listening to the news were full of yearning for justice and peace for a safe world for my daughter to grow up in.

The prayers each night sitting with my daughter were full of thanks.

When Charlotte was 7 weeks old we developed a nightly routine. It started with feeding, then pajamas, diaper change, story time and finally, prayer. Prayer time consists of my naming thanks for the day and lifting up people and places who could use extra support. It’s been a way for me to pause and reflect on the day while giving thanks for everyone Charlotte and I encountered. It’s been a way to keep our family and friends who live far away near our hearts.

This time is a way for me to model to Charlotte the power of prayer.

As Charlotte has grown our time together at night has changed. Early on I’d say our prayers while she nursed, her eyes looking at me as they slowly opened and closed as she drifted to sleep. As she became more alert, she’d squirm a bit more, grab the blanket or fidget.

Now that she’s a toddler, I have to work at keeping her on my lap during prayer time. I keep saying our prayers as she reaches for more books, as she points to the dresser wanting her shoes or socks, as she pushes her legs against mine standing up and smiling.

But I keep praying. I keep naming names. I keep praying for the places of this world.

Who knows what words and prayers she hears amid her squirming and grunting to get out of my arms? Who knows if she connects this time of prayer with a deepening connection to God and this world?

I then say the Lord’s Prayer and mark the sign of the cross on her head. I tell her that she is a loved child of God, and that I love her.

When I notice her squirming and trying to get away and I wonder: Could this be how God prays for us? Could this be how God holds us?

I imagine God holding us and reciting the immeasurable love and mercy God feels toward us over and over again. As I wrangle my daughter to my chest, I hear God’s words embracing us: You are loved; you are enough; you are more than enough; you are mine. I hear God’s words of gratitude and forgiveness. I hear affirmations. I hear God’s call to love and serve.

Then I look at my daughter and I feel her moving and fidgeting and see her distracted.

And I hold her.

Just as I, too, am being held.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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