if I don't know how to pray?
when people feel they don't know how to pray, it's because they
haven't considered the possibility that they're already doing
it. Prayer is our relationship to God, pure and
awareness and intention in any relationship is a good thing.
If you understand prayer as relationship with God, you can see
how sometimes you are watching God at work, sometimes you're
listening to God's voice, sometimes you're chattering away, sometimes
you're arguing, and sometimes you're just sitting quietly together.
may be a presupposition that prayer happens in church or by the
bed, on your knees, in a set form. It does. All set forms are
potential resources. Assuming a particular posture may help you
focus. Having set times and places of prayer provides useful
structure. However, prayer can happen anytime, any place, and
in any manner. People who aren't going to church or saying bedtime
prayers are frequently engaged in more informal kinds of prayer
than they realize.
example, perhaps you had a dream, the kind that sticks with you
and shimmers. Or
you may have come to value your nightmares, having discovered
they bear insights into your fears. You hope this morning's dream
may yield its meaning, its counsel, its guidance, its truth.
You may jot it down for later reflection. When you receive your
dreams as gifts, you are thanking your Creator for them. That's
you awake, a hope for the day runs through your mind. You hear
a fragment of a song, a hymn, a musical score. Someone's face
pops up in your mind's eye. You enjoy the daylight streaming
in the window. You gaze fondly at the one sleeping next to you.
These are prayers of hope, inspiration, love, gratitude. As you
begin to recognize these stirrrings as the movement of the Spirit
within, you begin to trust the divine companion, who is always
in the shower, you anticipate the day to come. You hope to untangle
a problem with the production schedule. You dread a meeting with
a coworker. Your anger rises, remembering yesterday's conflict.
As your defenses tense, you realize you will need to be in a
different frame of mind to achieve the best possible cooperation.
Of course that's prayer. When you recognize your concerns as
prayer, you can focus and shape them. You can let go of your
fretful preoccupation with them.
you swallow your toast, you see Uncle Fred's picture on the refrigerator.
He's recovering from surgery, and you're relieved about that.
You feel a twinge because he's getting old, and you haven't been
back home to visit for a while. You remember that your child
has a game this afternoon and is nervous about it. Your heart
goes out to her. All this is the energy of prayer at work.
people tell me they get a lot of praying done in their cars during
commute times. Some keep lists. Others just allow things to bubble
up. Some pray for the drivers who seem most out of control. Imagine
how many people pray for those involved in accident scenes along
the road. There was once a moment when I was watching the television
news and felt close to despair. All of a sudden, the words of
the Kyrie began to pray in me—"Lord have mercy upon us"—
lifting my spirit and addressing the situation. I've repeated
it ever since, when news stories call for it.
is also the prayer that happens in times of personal difficulty
and distress. "I hope I can get through this. Steady now,
stay calm, concentrate. Help! How will I ever get through this?" Understanding
such inner dialogue as conversation with the divine companion
helps us recognize such terse interchanges as prayers for clarity,
strength, direction, deliverance. It has been said there are
no atheists in the trenches. We're all in the trenches, if you
also come to hear prayer disguised in swearing and cursing. When
someone takes God's name in vain, as we say, I'm no longer so
sure it's altogether in vain, since they still remember it and
have some kind of distorted relationship to it. Alienated from
God, the appeal to God is still made. We can all be estranged
from God, mad, sulky and pouting, standoffish, suspicious, or
overly polite. We can hold a grudge or stonewall. Or we can trust
God enough to spit it all out onto the table and have at it,
as some of the pslamists and prophets did.
amazing thing about prayer is that our capacity for intimacy
with God is also our capacity to be close to ourselves and others.
It's all connected. And,
as with any spiritual exercise, prayer benefits from practice,
awareness, intention, reflection, and more practice. But it's
still as natural as breathing. By the way, God's voice is heard
in creation, in nature, in human nature, in scripture, and in
all forms of inspiration. When what you hear carries something
like an electric charge, as a special dream does, that's a good
clue. It captures your attention, pierces your confusion, arrests
your presupposition. It thrills, convicts, consoles, directs.
God does talk back.
Rev. Dr. Katherine M. Lehman
Lord's Prayer. In this short prayer Jesus helped the
disciples learn that prayer was first of all coming into God's
presence. This is where all prayer must begin. The prayer then
became asking for their daily sustenance, pleading for their
own forgiveness and for the courage to forgive others, and requesting
God to keep them from all that would undermine their movement
toward union with God. Sometimes it is helpful to have prayers
like The Lord's Prayer that you can carry with you in your heart.
are all beginners at prayer and when we recognize this, we are
able to pray well. In its most basic of forms,
prayer is simply talking. It is spilling out the contents of
your heart to the
One who loved that heart into existence. Prayer does not need
to be a refined and grammatically correct set of phrases that
follow established policies and procedures! Prayer is as varied
as each person's personality.
are times when you will find that prayer arises unbidden from
within. Perhaps someone you love is in need, perhaps your life
feels overwhelming, perhaps you have inner questions that are
disturbing your peace, or perhaps you feel lonely or afraid.
Words and even tears rise up within you seeking release. The
words flow and you pour out what is inside until you are empty
and quiet. A disciple once asked one of the desert fathers how
to pray. His answer is refreshing. "There is no need to
speak much in prayer; often stretch out your hands and say, 'Lord,
as you will and as you know, have mercy on me.' But, if there
is war in your soul, add, 'Help me!' and because God knows what
we need, he shows mercy on us."
is not a science that must be mastered in order to be effective.
Prayer at its essence is re-claiming your right to attend to
your inner life. It's collecting the pieces of life and bringing
them to the One who alone can bring your soul back into balance.
All prayer arises out of silence. If you want to know how to pray, step into
silence. God is present there, and your heart will pray and God will speak.
Here is a simple exercise that may help.
down and become aware of your breath.
you breathe slowly, allow your busy mind to become centered
by allowing it to descend into the quietness of your heart.
your heart speak whatever it needs to say.
for the word of God that may come audibly, or as an insight,
or as a feeling of peace or clarity.
a few minutes, thank God for the time that you have spent together
and slowly return to an awareness of your breath.
Rev. Canon Renée Miller