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How to Speak to God with Just One Syllable

Our prayers can contain just one breath of a word to unleash the biggest, most wondrous concepts ever.

Praying with hands over heart
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The notion is not original with me. Short one-word prayers go back hundreds of years. I have often turned to the mystic 14th-century author of a book called The Cloud of Unknowing. He might have been a monk. Nobody knows his name. Just his advice.

He suggests not just short phrases or words to use but the shortest of all, one-syllable words. You wonder why, until you pick just one, close your eyes and let it work through you. In our faith life, indeed, the smallest, shortest words can refer to the biggest, boldest, wondrous concepts imaginable.

Here are a few words I try to pray. Try one yourself. Or maybe you have one to add to the list.

God. What could be bigger than “God?” I like praying God’s name on a breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Feeling it sustain me, filling me up. There is so much I want to say to God. But then again, doesn’t God know all that? Isn’t it enough to call on Him?

Sin. I never would have thought of using this as a prayer. It was a suggestion from that anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing. There are things that get in the way of our practicing our faith and loving God. To pray “sin” is a way for me to ask for forgiveness and let the sins go.

Love. This one seems like a no brainer. God’s love enriches our lives. Love is our way to God. After all, the Bible tells us, “God is love.” When I pray this one word I like to tap my chest—my heart—with two fingers. Feel the love.

Faith. Those who were healed by Jesus came to our Lord in faith. And as Jesus often points out to them, that faith is what healed them. Nothing specific they did but what they held in their hearts. My faith can wax and wane. I pray this one word to feed it.

Christ. Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Chosen One choosing us to follow Him. Wow, what a big word “Christ” is. A mammoth theological concept. And yet, there it is, just one syllable. I breathe it in and breathe it out. Finding the Christ in me.

You. Whenever I sit down to pray, I know I am not alone. There are thousands—millions—doing just the same thing all across the globe. People ask me to remember them in prayer, and I’m only too happy to do so. The word “you” is a simple way to encompass all that. I pray for you and you and you and you. We’re in this together. 

There are hundreds such words—I daresay thousands. Choose the ones that speak to you as you speak to the Lord. In prayer. 

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