What Prayer Is…
Confession: Prayer is hard for me.
I have been searching for a better understanding of what prayer is and why it is so important. I want to learn how best to apply my new knowledge to how I live out my faith in my everyday travels. Prayer is important not for what we get from it, but because through it we can come into direct and conscious contact with the presence of the divine, with the source and ground of our being, with God.
I am currently reading a book called How To Read A Poem. In it I found a line: learn about poetry from the poem. I am preparing to teach a class on the St. Francis prayer and I am using this line to structure my class, but I have put it differently. Learn about praying from prayer; learn about living from prayer. I am teaching this class not because I am an expert on prayer or living well, but because I value prayer and want to learn how to prayer better. I want to use prayer as a guide to living life to the full.
Prayer is not just about the time of silence we spend with our heads bowed, eyes closed, and hands clasped or folded. Prayer is not about the words we say, what we ask for, or if we use the right words in the right order. Prayer is not some magic trick or a way of appeasing God. Prayer is a response in faith to our source, God, or whatever you like to use—Lord, love, grace, Most High—there are many words to say to point to the presence that we are connecting to in prayer. Prayer as a response to life, what happens to us, and our overall attitude to life is something we should (need) to take with us out in the world.
Prayer is a way of disengaging the world and reconnecting to God.
Prayer is a subversive act because it subverts the common world myth that we are force fed from the beginning of our life. The world tells us we are alone that God is a fantasy and it is up to us and us alone to get what we want and no one else matters but us. The world wants us to think that individualism is the best way. The world wants to keep us separate and alone. The world wants us to buy the lie that we are each an island disconnected from each other. That as long as we don’t hurt someone we can do whatever we want when we want. That our desire for pleasure is far more important than loving, caring, and serving the other.
Yet, when we pray we affirm our belief in God and that our truth found in God’s realm. With each prayer we say in the name of Jesus, we remember and renew our pact with our Lord and Savior and become more and more a little Christ, a Christian. Prayer says that we matter that each of us matter and love will have the final word and the word after that too. Prayer says we are all connected and none of us is alone that we are all brothers and sisters. When one of us is diminished each of us are. When we let hate, despair, sorrow, and exclusion dominate our world than we are failing to spread love, hope, joy, and unity. If our prayer doesn’t help us to spread love and grace than we need to pray more.
Prayer is a simple and powerful way of worshiping, praising, thanking, communing, wrestling with, pleading with, requesting from, and remembering who God is and what our relationship is all about. Prayer is a way of deepening our connection to God. When we have a deeper connection with the presence of God, we can express and extend that presence in our daily lives. Our relationship with the divine is not about what we get from it, but what we can offer to others because of it. While we are not always given answers or the answer we seek, we are always strengthened.
As Stephen King said, “God doesn’t provide taxis, but strengthens us.”
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