Short Introduction to Practicing Prayer
seems to me that two words occupy spiritual and religious seekers
more than any others:
Millions of words, thousands of books, hundreds of sermons are devoted
to these two concepts.
love and prayer are valued and practiced by people of diverse
religions, and we would all do well to learn more about their
role in faiths other than our own. Yet when I am asked about my
thoughts on prayer, I must return to that which I know best, if
only a little, and that is how I pray as a Christian.
do not use the word ‘little’ in the above paragraph
with irony. Although I have prayed sporadically for more than
sixty years, I do not consider myself in any way an authority
about this vast and complex subject.
I believe first and foremost about prayer is that it is relationship
and that is the key factor. Just
as in human relationships, sometimes one form of communication
works, sometimes another. So, whatever works best for you in your
life today is going to be the best way for you to pray today.
Though that sounds simple enough, I would venture to offer here
a few things I have learned along the way that may be of some
help or interest to someone who seeks refreshment for her or his
as Anne Lamott says, the
most common (and perhaps honest!) prayers are, HELP
ME, HELP ME, and THANK YOU, THANK
YOU. I fear that most prayers are for
help, but I think that the more we practice prayer as a daily,
unpretentious and natural act, the more we will find ourselves
giving thanks. Both of these prayers are legitimate and valuable,
which leads me to my second point.
words we use need to be OUR words. I love to read the prayers
of other people, and I am part of a liturgical tradition of structured
prayer that means the world to me. Yet I know that if relationship
with God is what I seek, it is best to speak from my heart.
to the forms, times, content of prayer, once a person is committed
to regular prayer, I think certain practices come along when we
need them. "The Lord’s Prayer," our model prayer
given to us by Jesus, contains all the ‘things’ we
need for a ‘full’ prayer: acknowledgement and praise
of God, turning our wills over to God, petition for necessities,
request for forgiveness and the ability to forgive others.
"The Lord’s Prayer" as a springboard, and remembering
that the purpose of prayer is to be in relationship with God,
the sky is the limit! Regular weekly worship offers community,
structured prayer, and prayer for others. "The Prayers of
the People" in the Book of Common Prayer can be
used as a prayer outline. Reading Scripture and offering regular
prayer for others (keeping a current list is a wonderful practice),
as well as ourselves, is one of my favorite disciplines. Again,
the Book of Common Prayer’s Daily Office is excellent.
Another superb tool is the 3-volume Divine
Hours compiled by Phyllis Tickle.
I grow older, I have learned that silent prayer (as in NO WORDS
from me) works wonders in deepening my relationship with God.
Here, at last, in silence, I can begin to hear God’s voice,
feel God’s presence as never before. Silence
helps me know that God is with me, acknowledged or not.
This is the greatest comfort I can have.
are as many prayer forms and types as there are personalities.
Witness the myriad books about how to pray. Song (she who sings
prays twice!), dance, drum circles, meditation circles…the
list is virtually endless.
question that usually arises about prayer, other than how to do
it, is what about unanswered
prayer – that is, when our specific petitions
are not granted. I have learned two things about this: One is
to stop asking for specific outcomes and simply hold the person
or situation up into God’s Light; the second is that prayer
prepares the pray-er for the answer. Prayer hollows us out, helps
us receive the answer when it comes.
once asked a woman whose prayer life I admired (coveted is more
honest!) what was the ‘secret’ of her prayer life.
"Oh, honey dear," she exclaimed, "All I do is open
my eyes every morning and say ‘May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O God my
strength and my redeemer.’ "
words started me off on a whole new way to live, and I hope they
will do the same for you. Just remember God
yearns to be in relationship with you; it will
make a world of difference in your prayer life.
Copyright ©2004 Mimsy Jones