I recently watched the movie "Gravity." It's a little out there, but really brilliant and breathtaking. At the lowest point in the lone survivor's despair, when she is sure she is going to die, Ryan Stone laments that no one will pray for her soul as she dies. "I'd say a prayer for myself, but I don't know how. No one ever taught me how to pray."
No one ever taught me how to pray. It's such a simple thing, it seems, to offer a few words to God in prayer in a time of need. It's such a basic, human thing to do — probably something humans have done since they've had mouths and fears. But Ryan Stone's prayers go unspoken. Far above the earth in the black solitude of space, prayer is an impossible voyage.
As a youth minister, I get to teach kids how to pray every week. I've always considered youth ministry to be important, but watching the desperate moment of a woman stranded in a dying space station, breathing in her last dregs of oxygen, I was struck anew how significant it is to be able to freely and confidently pray, and to be one of those people who gets to teach others to pray and to consider their relation to God.
As we push on into Lent in just a few days, we get to share a seat with Ryan Stone. It's a time to reflect on our utter insufficiency to save ourselves, a time to come face to face with the fact that we can't do it. But, just like for Ryan Stone, our Lenten space capsule needn't drift hopelessly into endless emptiness. We travel through Lent knowing where we will end up — in the Passion of the Christ who takes up that unuttered prayer and gives it voice on the cross.
So, pray. You've already been heard.