Pastoral Ponderings . . .
Let me think…what are my most memorable prayers? Actually, my most memorable prayers are far too vulnerable for me to mention here, so I think I’ll leave most of them between us. But I know I have a lot of them I can think of that are in the memorable/classic category.
I remember praying over many girls. Actually, I didn’t pray over them. That would be creepy. I prayed that you would help them to open their eyes and see what a perfect catch I was since I was obviously made for them…they just didn’t see it that way. In retrospect, thanks for not answering those.
Prayers before tests in school standout: especially math class. Had I had a teacher like Howard Harshbarger (who, as you know, Lord, has been a gentle, life-long math teacher in our local high school) I might have done better. Yes, prayers before tests were a stable, generally because I had so many more important things to do the night before. To your credit, I pulled through many of them.
I remember praying for meaning when things were leaning toward the meaning-less category. I prayed when my dad had a stroke, when my best friend in 8th grade committed suicide, and when my parents, overwhelmed by medical bills from dad’s medical issues, had to declare bankruptcy. Those were the prayers of “Why”, “Where are you?” and “Help us”. I regularly prayed in church, reciting prayers in both Latin and English during Mass.
But in all of this, nobody actually taught me how to pray: a subject my friend recently asked me about. I suspect I’m not alone in this “how to” category, so I thought I’d try to identify the steps I take that help me to speak/pray to you.
I pray seated or kneeling. Protestants don’t like to kneel…feeling that it might be a little “too Catholic”, but I like the idea that I am most submissive when I kneel. If seated, I try to find a simple chair with arms that is comfortable enough for me to sit without my bottom aching. I put my feet squarely on the ground and concentrate on relaxing every muscle in my body. It’s amazing how tense we keep our bodies…even in supposed rest. This takes more effort than one might think!
Once relaxed I acknowledge the noise both around me and inside my head and soul. When I do this I can gain control over it. Amazingly, when I try to pray I suddenly remember that I forgot to floss my teeth, get the butter, change the oil, straighten my desk, and so many other “important” things. With my mind/heart so busy the best I can hope to do is throw a “prayer” into the air in the hopes that you hear it so I can attend to all the “important” stuff I have to do.
When I begin to get my mind quiet (which becomes easier the more I practice) I begin with a formula which goes like this:
I acknowledge your presence
I give thanks for the blessings I have experienced
I confess my sins and ask for your forgiveness
I pray for those who hurt me and ask that you help me forgive them
I pray for my loved ones and their struggles
I ask for your blessings for this one day…one day at a time
It’s ironic that praying, of all things, can be so difficult. But it’s more appropriate to say that tossing up a prayer is something any fool can do…really praying takes practice and discipline. Help me to continue to really pray.
There’s an old Christian phrase/image that one should become a “prayer warrior”…a military image for a peaceful process. But this suggests the “warrior” is practiced, disciplined, focused, and available at the drop of a hat to get into prayer-mode. I’d like to think of it more as a “prayer servant”… ready and devoted to give all I have for the One who gives me life.
Well, as always, thanks for listening. I would appreciate your help in this area of prayer in my life as always, I love you.