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The Power Of A Privately Praying Woman

Inspiration

I have never known a day without God in my life. It sounds dramatic, but it's true. I spent summers at vocation Bible school in a small town south of Atlanta with my grandmother, at the kind of church with crinkled paper fans and a choir whose voices vibrated through the creaky wooden pews. As a teen, I was an usher and sang in the choir—off-key, but sincere. I always went to church, but I didn't always know how to pray.

Prayer is how we communicate and connect with God but it's how He changes us. Don't let other people's assumptions about prayer complicate that. Their discomfort or ignorance can prompt you to question your own confidence in your spiritual life. Even if you're a baby believer, or haven't prayed much before, you can start. I learned to ignore the people who questioned my spiritual certainty and honored God's voice within me. I have dreamt about things in my life that have come to pass. I have followed small whispers that guided me to opportunities and people who changed my life. I have been shown things I cannot explain. People who I know love me and still think I'm crazy, but I know myself.

I learned to make space in my life for the voice of my spirit. She, through God, tells me which parties to attend, who to love, who to block, which friends are foe, how I spend money, which job offers to accept. But it took time to truly hear her. It took discipline. It took life falling apart.

Here's a secret: you won't always feel like praying.

But do it anyway. Pray – especially when you're angry, when you have questions and when your doubts are turning your life upside down. Seek inner peace. Learning to respect that soft voice deep down is how you learn to trust your God and yourself.

The woman you will become is built through life's joy, pain. and your ability to pray through it.

Here's a few steps to becoming a powerful privately praying woman:

Create Your Own Sanctuary.

I pray throughout the day. In my car, at work, in the shower, on my knees, dancing around, in the gym, in my closet-- you get the point. You don't have to wait until it's dark outside to fall on your knees before bed after a hectic day. Prayer is God's direct extension, it takes time to hear him through the static. Don't rattle off a list of wants without listening back for His voice. It won't be loud and His message at times may be muffled. But keep practicing. There could even be a time where God's silence forces a leap of faith.

I transformed part of my closest into my prayer lounge. On the floor: green decorative pillows. On the walls: letters to God, pink Post-it's with scriptures, and list of times God showed up for me. Some days, I sit in silence. Other days, I'm crying out to God (or just crying) with my journal and a praise-be-to-the-most-high-please-fix-it-Jesus playlist. Take ownership in being a prayer warrior by creating a space where you can listen, cry, plan, profess, and grow. Be intentional with your time.

Your sanctuary isn't limited to prayer. Prayer isn't just about having a conversation with God, it's about connecting with your soul. You can hear God through exercise, yoga, cooking, writing. Allow your interests and talents to reveal your true self.

Seek Wise Counsel.

We all need people in our lives who want us to win. But not all good advice is applicable to your situation. Not all good ideas are good for you. You must be mindful what you allow people to speak over you. Listening to the wrong advice from the right people ties you to their expectations and abilities. Mama knows best, but is it possible for mama to be wrong this time? (Sorry, mama.) If someone shares an opinion that feels wrong, or goes against what you believe to be the destined plan for your life, respectfully decline. Swipe right. Exit. Not everyone's intentions are pure and sometimes they can project their fears onto.

Be Still & Be Quiet.

I struggled with this big time because I LOVE to talk. I ran from being quiet with God for years. Like, “OK, God you want me to be alone with my anxieties, fears, and truths and work through it all?" Nah. I'm good. But if you treat it as a form of self-care, prayer will change your life.

If you're constantly running from what you don't know about yourself, the finish line of wholeness and peace will always keep moving away from you. You'll never get there. You'll never truly win.

Fall in love with being alone, being still, and being quiet. Yes, socialize, date, network, but find time to be with yourself. Listen for the small voice within. Listen for the ideas that fall into your heart. Search for the spirit that gets drowned out by the distractions of retweets and double-taps.

Reasses Your Resources.

Some Sundays we're in the pews and others, we're streaming saints and bedside Baptists. Either way, connect to ministries that speak to your soul.

Podcasts, sermons, and books aren't one size fits all. We screenshot a meme, read an amazing book, or text sermon notes to Bae and Friends that are meant only for us. Learn which spiritual teachers and materials work for you. You don't have to delete all the inspirational texts from your group chat or rebuke your girls the next time they share a word, but don't feel guilty for guarding your heart and learning what best suits you at the time. For you, silent mediation may work better than TD Jakes speaking in tongues. Don't let anyone force you into their spiritual routine. Invent your own.

Don't Give Up.

Prayer isn't a magic potion that miraculously treats your problems and scatters fairy dust across your dreams. Nope. Nothing in life is that simple. Life will challenge you, especially as you begin new jobs, new relationships, and a new journey of self-discovery. Don't wait until something is wrong to talk to God. He's good in a crisis, but get to know Him (and yourself) before one presents itself.

One thing is certain: prayer is your power tool.

It secures the foundation of what you believe about yourself and your life. It tints the walls of your world with encouragement. It embellishes the rooms of your soul. Use what you believe about God and the Holy Spirit and train yourself to trust that voice, despite your doubts.

Listen to her. Follow her lead. She is intelligent, beautiful, ambitious, and strong despite any circumstances or flaws.

Prayer doesn't guarantee ease, perfection, or control over your life. It dresses you with the confidence you need to conquer it.

Nicole Baker is a weekday morning anchor in Savannah, Georgia.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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