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It bounces off the walls of our souls
and says, “I am here, I am here.”
It is better than any map.
Easier to read, available always.
Whether prayer is
whispered in a cloister
or bellowed to the wide sky,
it always finds its way.
The older I get, the more I look like the letter “C.” I use a computer a lot, so I tend to slouch. Also, I’m nearsighted and hate wearing glasses, yet everything that requires my attention (stuff on countertops, the stove, pets) seems to have been placed inconveniently low for someone of my height (six feet), so I bend some more. My core, if I ever had one, has degenerated into mush and my bones are turning to rubble (osteoporosis, fie!) so I sort of sink in the middle as I become more and more tired…. The end result? A “C” curve. I fear I will fall further and further, until I’m a loop. Perhaps my husband can roll me through the house.
And it’s not just me. All of us humans tend toward circles. I just read a fascinating article about how, if you blindfold a person (or place him in fog, complete darkness, or other sight-diminishing circumstances) and ask him to walk, drive or otherwise move himself in a straight line across some distance, he will end up making circles, loop after loop, until he either winds up where he started, or runs into a tree or other unfortunately placed item. Without sight cues like a mountain or a building to guide us, we can’t walk a straight line.
This reminds me of why I pray. God is my mountain — He shows me where I want to go — but prayer keeps me on track. It’s like echolocation is to bats or whales. It helps me finds my way, stay on the path, keep my eyes ahead on what is important. Prayer grounds me. It keeps me from running in circles, willy-nilly, never making progress. Because, let’s face it, we’re all blindfolded to some degree. If we saw with complete clarity, we would never hurt one another or ourselves. But things get in the way: jobs, people, everyday life, our own psychological tics. We need something to pull our eyes out of our own navels and show us the world not just realistically, but with hope. Because without hope, there’s no use standing up at all. You might as well curl up in a ball and die.
All of this is to say that I pray because I need to see the way. But we all have different reasons to pray. That’s sort of how this blog came about…the need for us to talk about prayer and create prayer so we can find our way to the light. Or express our emotions. Or shower God with rightful praise. Or whatever it is that motivates each one of us to a prayerful life.
So what about you? Why do you pray?
One of my father’s favorite funny lines was from the sitcom, Cheers. The main character, Sam, the bar owner, says to Coach, an older bartender, “Coach, if anyone wants me, I don’t want to be bothered,” to which Coach replies, “Who does?”
And ain’t that the truth? Who wakes up in the morning and says, “Today, I really want to be bothered. Tailgated, harassed, dismissed. Just want to have a crummy day!”
I wasn’t always a person of faith. For most of my life, I was a skeptic with an odd tendency to blame God when things went wrong. I’d never mention God during any of the good times, but the minute things went awry, I’d shake my head and “tsk-tsk” toward the Heavens. Sure. Can’t I ever catch a break? Huh? How could You allow all this stuff to happen to me?
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that my life was a quilt of my own chaotic creation. Bad relationship? Could it be that I chose the exact wrong guy for me? Bad job? Could it be that when I took that job, I regarded it as an interim measure, and then settled for the “devil-you-know” since there were no other obvious prospects falling from the sky? Bad time in traffic? Could it be that I chose to live in a very populous state, with no way to get to work or to stores except via crazy-busy highways?
When all is said and done, I believe that we all want the same thing: a prayerful, peaceful, purposeful life. Now you might say, some people don’t believe in God, so they don’t seek a prayerful life. I define prayerful as focusing your energies into that which you perceive as right and true. To me, it means praying to God, whom I also refer to as “the Universe” or “All-that-is.” Non-believers might find their prayerful outlet in family traditions, in the arts, or by helping out in the community.
I think we work so hard and deal with so much because we believe that one day we will be able to live this type of life. Prayerful. Peaceful. Purposeful. Something more than running in the rat race. A place where, even if everybody doesn’t know your name, they know at least one thing about you: that you don’t want to be bothered. But then again, who does?
I grew up with religion. We went to church. We celebrated Easter and Christmas. We read the children’s Bibles that Aunt Nettie sent us. We recited one prayer before dinner and another before bed.
What we did not do was discuss these things.
Given my curiosity level, this is a bit odd. I’ve always asked questions but I don’t remember asking anyone about their faith.
That said, I did notice the signs of faith around me. We were the only Protestants in our Catholic neighborhood. We moved in when I was two and I harassed my parents endlessly, wanting to know why we were the only people without a blue lady (the Madonna) in our yard. Everyone else had one and I wanted one too.
I don’t remember that harassment – my mother told me about it. And I don’t remember being discouraged to ask questions about Faith.
But I did grow up thinking that it was deeply personal and private. Maybe it was even something that nice people didn’t discuss. It was just that private.
Fortunately, I went to college. I had classes with students who were Muslim and Hindu. Later, when I worked for the university, I worked with a professor who was Jainist and another who was a Baptist minister but who studied Buddhism in Thailand. A third professor grew up Mormon but converted to Catholicism. Maybe it was because this was the anthropology department or it is simply the nature of universities, but it was OK to discuss faith. Over take- out, I barraged my Muslim friends and room-mates with questions. Between us and even in the office, these discussions were ok. Out in public, not so much.
Then my son was born and we moved back into the area where I grew up. It has changed a lot. Still largely Christian, it is no longer almost entirely Catholic. In grade school, my son has Muslim class mates. He knows kids who are Wiccan.
He also has my curiosity and he has it bad. He asks questions about everything, including Faith. We go to church. We celebrate Easter and Christmas and we discuss faith and prayer, not only ours but that of our neighbors. He asks questions. Some I can answer. Sometimes we find ourselves in the pastor’s office or chatting with a knowledgeable friend. We find books. We visit religious sites. I find people who will talk with us.
My son has also been key in exploring my prayer life. When I saw a job opportunity calling for writers to compose prayers, I was going to let it slide, but my son encouraged me to try.
“You pray all the time.”
“No, I don’t. I whine at God. That’s not the same.”
Fortunately, my son has a grand dose of stubborn. He helped me realize that I do pray although I’m not comfortable doing it in public.
It was something I had not discussed with other people. I don’t know why, but aware of it at last, it is something I have started asking other people about. I’m even part of a prayer group now. In addition to praying together, we discuss how we pray, why we pray and what seems to work best for each of us.
It is this discussion that Ruth, Lori and I want to duplicate here in our global neighborhood. An open dialog about faith and how we practice it through prayer as we reach out to that which is bigger than ourselves and that helps us be better than we could ever be on our own.
Why not get a cup of coffee and join us?
I lift my cares and my concerns.
I raise up my joys and my celebrations.
I sing with word and heart to You.
Give me the peace to come before You,
and also to listen to Your reply.
Give me the wisdom to see the prayerful
around me even if their prayers are somehow
different from my own.
May we gather before You together.
Like some great migration across the plain,
a herd of miracles is coming.
A gaggle of grace will descend from the skies.
The lion never asks, “When will my hardships end?”
It knows its natural habitat and perseveres
through drought and danger.
This is the faith I seek, O Lord.
Allow me to remember You are Sovereign
over all my fears and foes.
Remind me that You provide all my sustenance
Give me the heart of a lion and the soul of a lamb.
Is there really power in prayer? Must we pray using certain, circumscribed words? Can prayer make a difference in your life?
This is the first post of our new blog, and we’d like to welcome you with open arms. Here, we’ll post blogs and prayers that convey a sense of the sacred and spiritual in our lives, and try to impart wisdom as we find it along the path.
We come from different backgrounds and religions, but all of us seek to honor the divine and encourage our fellow travelers. Making prayer part of a daily routine provides certain net benefits: studies have shown prayer to lower blood pressure and instill a sense of calm; it’s a way of declaring your intentions for the day to yourself and to the Universe; and we believe prayer can actually change things for the better.
So come join us in a virtual prayer circle, as we pray our way through the day, and through our lives. It’s nice to have you join us on this journey.
Peace & Blessings.