Thursday, November 20, 2008


Dear friend,

Recently, you asked me how to pray. You said you want to pray but you don't know what words you are supposed to use.

The disciples asked Jesus the same question. He gave them the Lord's Prayer (although he didn't call it that!): God in Heaven, you are all-holy. May your heavenly kingdom reign here on earth. May your will be done in all things. Give us what we need for life - bread, water, clothing, shelter. Teach us to forgive others, so that we can recognize your forgiveness of us. Keep trials and temptations away from us, but if they come anyway, deliver us from them. Help us stand up to them, and find you with us in them. Amen.

Those are the basics of prayer: Acknowledge God's holiness, state your desire for God to reign everywhere - God's love, God's justice, God's mercy - then ask God for the things you need, and what you desire for others. Recognize where you have fallen short - see your own sins and not those of others. Learn forgiveness from your own sins, for they have been forgiven. Surprise!

If you still don't know what to say, or how to say it, turn to the Psalms. There isn't anything you could think of that hasn't already been said thousands of years ago. These are prayers that let it all hang out, even hateful things, while recognizing the total reliance on God in all things at all times.

I think you are more worried that you won't get the prayers right. There is no right or wrong in prayer.
Pray with or without words.
Pray your feelings - your tears, your laughter, your despair, your joy are prayers.
Take a walk and enjoy what God has created around you.
Notice how your body feels - let it be your prayer.

Most of all, pray what is in your heart. The words don't have to be right. When you're done, fall silent for a spell. Let your heart catch up, and open itself to God, for you to see, or feel or hear. And know this, you are God's prayer for the world. Your whole life is a prayer with God.

Peace be with you.


Fred Preuss said...

Pray...and then listen for the crikets chirping.
Or better yet, get a copy of the study of hospital patients who actually got worse when they had people pray for them.

DeanB said...

This really goes with your "Trilogy - out of the depths" post, since that's a psalm quote too. I want to put in a plug for Ps 121, the mountain climbers' prayer. Long ago (probably Nov 24 1963 -- you can figure out why I can remember the date) I was climbing Giant in the Adirondacks with friends from college. There was a little patch of ice I had to step over, with hundreds of feet of steep bare rock beyond it. The next time I saw "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved" I knew what it meant.

Barbara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
revLois said...

DeanB, my heart stopped as I waited for you to take that step. This is the stuff of which prayer is made - the steps taken, the waters crossed, the risks taken. The words only matter in that we feel compelled to use them, to make things real, to remember, to give voice to that which we have known and felt and experienced.

DeanB said...

..and the words matter to share, to know that someone 2500 years ago also wanted a foot not to slip. When you think about it, of course they did, but isn't it wonderful that someone wrote it down, and that people preserved it all that time, and that the text has been there for people to set to music over and over!