In my garden, in church, in my bathtub.
Sometimes my prayers are free-flowing and disjointed.
Sometimes they are not made of words, but are more a rushing of emotion and sensation.
Sometimes they are formal, formulaic.
I pray my prayers and I listen to the prayers of others: the woman in the pew behind me giving thanks for this beautiful world, the whispered names of the suffering, the handwritten petitions pinned to bulletin boards at holy sites in England, the crickets.
I pray please and thank you and what is this? and show me the way.
Recently someone said to me, “I don’t pray because it doesn’t work.”
I knew what she meant.
She meant that she had asked for things and not received them. She’d asked for help with situations and those situations had not improved.
She felt alone and unheard.
The thing is, prayer loses its meaning when we think of it as a vending machine.
When we try to make God into our personal valet.
I don’t pray so that I can get everything I want. One thing I’ve learned in my forty-five years of spiritual exploration is, I don’t even know what I want. God has bigger plans than I do, and what I know of life, of reality, is really only the very tip of something so vast an magical, I can’t wrap my mind around it.
Nothing is either random or logical about life, but life is a huge operation that defies comprehension. It is a mystical journey, not a rational one. – Caroline Myss
Sometimes God grants wishes. When they are in alignment with our soul’s plan, the highest good.
But I don’t think of God as a wish-granter.
That doesn’t stop me from sometimes falling to my knees and begging.
I have prayed through tears and gritted teeth to stop things from happening, things I thought I could not bear. But when those things happened anyway, I did bear them.
And that, perhaps, is a glimpse into the power of prayer.
Not that it allows us to pick and choose the experiences of our lives, but that through it we are bolstered and supported as we navigate those experiences.
It is often said that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God and I think that’s a good way of looking at things but the truth is, prayer and meditation have blended for me into a contemplative practice of connection.
This, more than anything, is how I see prayer – as making connection to the grace that surrounds me, opening my self, my heart, the hidden parts of me to the mystery and love of God.
The energy of God.
I pray for qualities – like compassion or forgiveness – I ask for theses energies, which exist all around me in every moment, to come in, to enter me. The prayer is an opening of the door.
I ask God to flow through me, to make me an instrument.
To see me.
I am allow myself to feel, or allow myself the possibility that I may for a brief moment feel, beloved.
But prayer isn’t always about asking and thanksgiving. Sometimes it is sharing. In prayer I say the things I need to say, I reveal what’s in the shadows, I own up to everything, I let it be known.
I share my confusion, my fear, my doubt, my dreams.
All of this I place into God’s hands.
All of this I offer for healing and acknowledgement. The balm of acceptance.
I believe all prayers are heard and answered.
Sometimes the answer is No.
Sometimes the answer is Okay – ready to be dazzled? Watch this!
Sometimes the answer is a desire or a calling or a push. A repeated thought that won’t let go. A rough and rocky road that I have no choice but to walk. A brush of fingers against my skin in the middle of the night. A phone call. A bird song. The teacher I need at the perfect time.
Prayer doesn’t make life easier, it makes it possible.
Prayer is not about God saying yes to me. It’s about me saying yes to God.
In prayer I acknowledge my need and my mission.
Here I am with my reason and my heart, my free will, my wild. Here I am in this human vehicle, this earth-suit. Here I am with my senses, my stories, my ache. All of these things I have been given. The joyful blessings and the sorrowful ones. Here I am saying yes. I will. Yes.
This is why I pray.
To be held in communion.
To be one with all that is.
To be reminded what I’m made of, where I come from, why I’m here.
May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.
― Mother Teresa
I will always ask for things. I am human and this is what we do. But I know, even in that asking, that prayer will not make my dreams come true. It will not save me from pain or even death. But it will hold me. It will place me inside Her. It will nourish me and guide me. Through prayer, I am led straight into that which I do not understand but desperately need.
I pray because it is how I breathe into my life.
It is through prayer that God breathes into me.