On the Other Kind of “Prayer Plant”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

I have a maranta leuconeura gracing my kitchen counter, commonly known as a “prayer plant” because it “folds up” its oblong-shaped leaves at night somewhat resembling hands closed in prayer.

Besides being hardy (as long as they are kept away from direct sunlight), prayer plants:

  • grow quickly,
  • their varied colors and designs are dramatic and beautiful (more examples at the link, above),
  • they can last for years (up to forty or more, from accounts), and
  • if you will, they are somewhat analogous to another kind of “prayer plant,”  i.e., you and me  (homo sapiens) who “grow where we are,” often expressed “bloom where we are planted” as a commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:20. 

I am happy to say that, among the few kinds of houseplants I have been able to successfully grow through the years, this one is among them.

In fact, my prayer plant grows so fast (you can virtually watch the new leaves unfurl when they’ve reached a certain stage), my sister Barb calls it a “novena plant.” Drawing from our Roman Catholic upbringing* a novena, is a “nine days’ private or public devotion in the Catholic Church to obtain special graces” from God, Mary, and/or various Catholic saints–which would involve a lot of, well, praying hands.

As a “human prayer plant,” embedded in the places and circumstances of my life, I’m not necessarily a formal “interceder,” like those who have the gifting and calling to engage with other “prayer warriors” through whom God performs miracles, heals the sick, delivers the possessed and the oppressed.

I’m more the “ambulance chaser” kind of pray-er, as in when I hear or see emergency vehicles of any kind I pray for those in need, those “in speed” to the scene, and anyone else involved who could use a little or a lot of help from a Friend. Now.

I extend this kind of “prayer in passing” as well to airplanes overhead. We live a few miles from an airport, so there are many opportunities. I pray God’s Spirit will perform His will in the lives of passengers and crew just then, whether for salvation, comfort, guidance, deliverance, or initial spiritual awakening, and that He will also bring the plane itself to a safe landing.

In the classroom I prayed over each new term’s crop of students as well as for the teaching environment

And in all my human roles in a family, socially, professionally, and in the world at large that presents itself in need of prayer, I also intercede.

Of course I pray out of my own need for wisdom and guidance.

On a daily basis.

As I think about Jesus’ earthly prayer life, it seems to me He was always trying to get away to be alone with the Father. It seems to me that most prayer is also that way. One-on-one, alone with Abba, Father, in some quiet or busy, solitary or crowded place–as needed. I share a few more thoughts on this here.

Of course there are formal, “corporate” kinds of prayer, where many voices raise in unision for some need or in thanksgiving for answered prayer, or in praise of the One Who hears and responds. Some denominations, of course, equate all prayer that way, or according to a set formula, sometimes, however, to the detriment of the kind of personal relationship God desires of us. As the prophet Micah put it,

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (6:8, NIV)

The word “walk” halak in this verse means “to come, go, walk,” and along with its many nuances (and synonyms), renders this state of being with God a continuous, past/present/future action.

God, it appears, really desires our company.

Indeed, along with acting justly and loving mercy (by extension, acting mercifully), He seems to desire our companionship continually.

Pause a minute and think about that!

(Side note: as one raised in a religious system with strictly mandated ways of doing things, this personal invitation from God to spend time with Him daily in thought, prayer, study, ministry, and just life, continues to increase my love for Him even these many years later.)

Here are a few more perspectives on prayer for us “spiritual plants” on good old terra firma, from the One Who desires, hears, and answers same:

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:18, NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7), and…

…The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16) **

Carry on, plants.


*Although I am no longer a Roman Catholic, rather what I call simply a “garden variety, born-again, Spirit-filled believer in Jesus Christ,” the comparison is apt. If the reader is interested in my “odyssey out” of religion for a relationship with God, as the tranisition is often described, here are several posts on my process, and related topics, which is not unlike many others’ similar experiences.

**Here is a listing of many more verses on prayer.

Photo credit: Andrew Beveridge

This entry was posted in Devotionals, most recent posts, spiritual transformation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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