Recently I have been saying The Lord’s Prayer in seven separate sections, giving a pause between each one. I even count on my fingers as I go to be sure of the breaks. Amazing change of rote memory to deep prayer. I won’t way more, other than to suggest you give it a try.
(1) Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
(2) thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
(3) Give us this day our daily bread.
(4) And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
(5) And lead us not into temptation;
(6) but deliver us from evil.
(7) For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
To pray is to pay attention to something or someone other than yourself. Whenever a man concentrates his attention--on a landscape, poem, geometrical problem, an idol, or the True God—that he completely forgets his own ego and desires, he is praying.
I put this quote by W.H. Auden on my cottagebythesea blog because I figured, even though God is mentioned, it wasn’t too religious. In trying to keep that blog about silence, solitude, and simplicity, I don’t write anything ‘too religious’. And yet, I assume that anyone with that longing probably taps into some desire for the ineffable.
Auden’s understanding of prayer resonates with me. Prayer is not about me and my judgments. It isn’t about telling God what I think God should do for others. As I live day by day with prayer, I’m hearing more and more that prayer is about lifting up a person or situation to God. Jesus, being human and divine, has implanted this in my heart.
If you long to be in God’s presence, if you feel called to prayer, accompany someone who has entered that prayerful presence with God.
I am sitting with my 96 year old friend. It is quiet here; she is not speaking and neither am I. We are together in a deep holy place, each in our own solitude. Everything is simple; the only thing to do is be. The window flowers offer hope.
Here I am again, working through my ongoing conundrum about prayer. How does it all work? Is there a right way to pray? The questions take many forms. I’ll probably keep writing about this until I get it right, which will never be, so either put up with me, or find some other blog to capture you interest. The name of this blog, however, shouldn’t fool you. I’m obsessed with prayer; writing about it helps. So here I go again.
When praying for people in a difficult situations, is there a right or better way to it? Sometimes we are asked to pray for specific results, such as for cancer cure (doesn’t give God any wiggle room). I understand the humanness of that I one, and at times I feel comfortable telling God what to do. But, really, that is more about God and me than about God and the person being prayed for.
In other prayers we ask for good to happens, such as that medical staff use wisdom. That makes sense because I believe that God, as love, wants us to do our loving, compassionate best and wants the best for all of us.
The prayer I feel most called to offer is to lift people to the light as I image them walking with God. I both figurative and literally step out of God’s way, and open up energy for that light to shine (that’s what I think I’m doing). I have NO idea what God plans for anyone, but I trust that it is of the good.
What keeps me going with the prayer obsession is my belief that we co-create with God, that we live in community with God, and that the universe needs our prayer/love. God has no power all by God’s self.
So I pray as though life depends on it, and that my prayer makes all the difference. It sure does for me. My guidelines: pray in faith: be positive and loving.
This morning my post on acottagebythesea told of my commitment to stop watching the news, stop being obsessed with it, stop letting politicians run my life. I have no chance of being the person God wants me to be if I spend my waking hours being judgmental and angry, and for sure the news will lead me along that path.
Specifically, if God is calling me to prayer for people, I have to do my part to keep my heart open. Being angry and judgmental closes my heart, closes out God, closes out communication between God and me, which is where true prayer lies. It’s as simple as that, and as challenging as that. Focusing on God, not on the news, is a way to start.
One of my go-to prayer churches in Florence is St. Trinita, a small, gothic style church on Piazza Trinita, and near Ponte Trinita. A trinity in itself.
I sit in a pew that gives me a view of Christ’s life through art.
What do I have to say about prayer today as I wind up my two weeks walking with God in Florence? Always, always start with gratitude! Indeed I am very grateful for this time alone in my beloved city. There is no excuse not to pray, but there are distractions, such as food, museums, and walking to avoid, and appreciate, puddles and people.
If I’m serious about prayer, I have to keep doing it. Abstaining is not an option, although my prayer practices vary and change. My prayer may be more verbal, or less verbal; I may feel God’s presence in a different ways; sometimes I sense that God isn’t there at all. Regardless, one of the things I have learned on this trip is that I have to keep showing up. Return to the breath I tell myself, whether I am in a church, eating a pizza or walking the streets.
Does this resonate with you? I struggle so hard to do it right with God, to pray without ceasing, to see the Christ in everyone I meet….I could go on and on. But, of course I fall short: I end up doing it right for me, I forget to pray, I project my faults on the people I meet…I could but I won’t go on and on.
A spiritual friend suggested that as a way to stop beating myself up I ask God what God wants of me. When we release our worries about how we act, and give them over to God, we become God centered, not self-centered. I know this, but in my self-involvement, I forget; I forget God. I wouldn’t be surprised if you resonate with this as well.
How much time do we spend praying? Christian tradition reminds us a time when churches were open for services night and day, and when monks and others participated in the Daily Office. But nowadays? We’re on the run, at least those still working. As a retired person I have the luxury of time to pray, and since I have this call to pray for people, I’d better take the time. Intercessory prayer takes time. The preparation is intense in itself. Empty my mind of chatter and judgments so that thy will be done can enter.
“Could you not watch one hour with me?” (Matthew 26:40), Jesus asks his disciples. He is asking me, for I am a disciple. I try to do just that for the first hour of my day. It’s a good practice, and for me it feels like a privilege.