Friday, January 28, 2011

What it Means to Pray

A third excerpt from a longer essay:

It’s been more than fifteen years, less than twenty since I’ve had a prayer partner.  We began a bit tentatively and I felt awkward at first sitting on my friend’s couch, holding hands and praying.  I was used to praying in a church building.  It seemed very public and a little unnerving praying together in our homes with all their signs of daily life.  Cats jumped in our laps.  The phone rang.  Someone would knock at the door.  We stoked the fire and spread a blanket over our laps in the winter.  In good weather, we sat outdoors listening to wind chimes, blue jays and motorcycles in the background of our prayer.  We talked about our lives and our children, our husbands, our parents and siblings, and our church, all the things we cared for most deeply.  We voiced our fears, our struggles, and our inadequacies.
Together, she and I wrestled with what it meant to pray.  Should we offer each other advice?  We did, but our advice was infrequent and gentle.  We never expected each other to follow it, but to find our own paths.  Did we ask God for exactly what we thought we wanted?  To heal my father from cancer?  Yes.  But we also recognized that our will and our desires weren’t really the point of prayer.  This was especially true when we prayed for our children.  We wanted them to become the people God had created them to be, not the people who would be easiest for us to nurture. 
Over time I began to embrace our prayer time because it allowed me to let go, if only for a few hours, of the burdens I carried worrying about my extended family and struggling folks at church.  I began to ask less for solutions.  Less of, “Please let my sister find a home.”  And more of, “Please help my sister to find you, God.” 
I began to notice how much lighter I felt after we prayed, and as the years progressed, how much joy I felt in the act of praying.  What had once been awkward became something I craved.  When we were done talking, we held hands, closed our eyes, and I felt myself both sink and float.  I breathed deeply and felt myself settle, my body became heavy, I relaxed as if I might fall asleep.  Another part of me floated and I bobbed in a rhythm, connecting to a presence outside myself.  Basking in God, wrapped in love.  In silence we each absorbed into Spirit, and we would’ve kept that dream state for hours if our schedules had allowed it.  Instead, one of us eventually broke the silence, always with thanksgiving for the opportunity to pray together and for this holy time set apart.  Often times we cried, releasing our hold on one another to reach for Kleenex, blew our noses, and continued.  We learned to speak through tears and to be glad for rather than embarrassed by them.  Some days we set a timer to call us out of prayer.  The ding jolted us back into our clock driven days, and reluctantly we left our reverie in the manner we always used to end our prayers, The Lord’s Prayer.  We prayed it together listening to and relishing every word.

No comments: