A few years ago my colleagues and I wrote an opening prayer for t’fila at The Davis Academy middle school. It starts with the line, “All I have to offer in prayer is myself.” We recite it every time our Middle School community gathers for t’fila, but what does it mean.
On the one hand there’s a spirit of humility. I don’t have much to offer. I’m just a simple, single, flawed human being. And that’s all I’ve got to offer to God. I’m not rich. I’m not brilliant. I’m not a model of any kind whatsoever. I’m just me. And that’s all I’ve got to offer. Which leaves me with a bunch of questions. Am I enough? Does God want my offering? Am I truly prepared offer myself in prayer? How do I offer myself up? What if God rejects me?
On the one hand there’s humility, on the other hand there’s honesty. The honesty is this: the only thing I know, and maybe I don’t even know it that well, is me. My life, my choices, my hopes, my dreams, my fears, my beauty, my ugliness. I can’t offer up something that isn’t mine. And because all I know and all I have is myself, that’s what I’m able to offer God. And if God doesn’t like what I have to offer, well that’s something that God and I will have to work out. Maybe prayer is the space where the work takes place. Maybe it’s the space where I tell God, here’s what I’ve got to offer, and, if I listen closely, I might (or I might not) hear God calling back to me in response.