Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Way of Prayer

In Peacemaking, Henri Nouwen writes, "The invitation to a life of prayer is the invitation to live in the midst of this world without being dropped in the net of its wounds and needs. The word 'prayer' stands for a radical interruption of the vicious chain of interlocking dependencies that lead to violence and war and for an entering into an entirely new dwelling place. It points to a new way of speaking, of breathing, of being together, of knowing -- truly, to a whole new way of living."
What has prayer meant to you? What practices of prayer have been most meaningful? What experiences of prayer can you recall as particularly meaningful, particularly painful, particularly joyous, particularly funny?


mr. doug said...

I'm interested to hear what people have to say on this...

Personally, I find it hard to get into a deep prayer, only because either the right words escape me or because I've seen it become more like entertainment and show(by the evangelical right).

I tend to make my life a living prayer. I need God in my life. I take on a humble spirit.

I do feel that peace and prayer are integral. The only way that peace, genuine peace, will be present amongst us is to call on the Holy Spirit to soften our hearts and to guide our thoughts and actions. Then, and only then, will it be God's intentions. Otherwise, it's two people trying to work things out (see James 3 and 4).

Marty said...

I consider prayer a way to organize my thoughts and concentrate/focus on what I'm praying for/about for a few seconds/minutes ... I also look to prayer as a tradition, something comfortable, something to do, say, to help you get 'in the mood' or when you can't figure out what else to say. A standard prayer in Judaism is the Kaddish.. which is basically praising God ... the prayer is used a couple times in the service .. once before you begin the torah(bible-old book)portion of the service and the same basic prayer is used during the part of the service for mourners ... http://www.ou.org/yerushalayim/kadish.htm

Karen said...

Prayer, for me, is a kind of odd combination of talking to God and myself simultaneously. ...almost a conversation about… thanks, blessings, help...at least, I hope that is what is going on in my mind...or maybe it is the emergence of schizophrenic tendencies!


I find it difficult, too, to enter deep prayer. My impediments to deep prayer might include thinking about the details of preparation required for a later event or fighting off an annoying repetitive tune like "It's a Small World Afterall." Prayer requires time and commitment. Prayer takes practice...

For me, prayer is a kind of energy exchange...sharing, passing along, and sending healing and loving energy to one another.

It is meditation...a time to think, to contemplate the whys of the world, to gain balance, to find peace/calm...within and outside…to focus on the moment…to appreciate that very second of being that will never exist again..

I tried to Google a reference to an event that happened a while ago on the Mall..couldn't find it. It is a story about a gathering of hundreds of people with the common purpose to pray/meditate. Oddly, during this event, the DC crime rate plummeted. Hmmmmm? All the criminals were at the Mall praying? Is it the energy? Positive thought? God's presence?

Toni said...

The most incredible eperience that I have had with prayer was when my mother had her massive stroke in 2004,I remember holding her rosary and starting to pray with it and at the first Our Father, my mother reached out and held my hand as I prayed the rosary for her this all happended while she was in a coma and had alreday been given Last Rites by the priest.I am totally convinced that she heard me and wanted to let me know that she was there and wanted me to continue to pray for her.And so Emily, Samantha, Brian, my sister, my niece and nephew created a prayer circle around her bed and prayed.As we prayed we could see her blood pressure go up from very low to where it needed to be and then she opended her eyes and smiled at us. That was so awesome to see the power of God right there in that room.

My mother taught me to pray not for things but for people, for peace,for health, and to thank and praise God for all the blessings that I have receive from him.

She always prayed, she never left the house without praying the rosary in the morning and always prayed it at night before going to sleep.

I pray in the mornings, before meals, and before going to bed. But I also find myself praying during the day especially if someone's name or face pops up in my mind, I say a quick prayer asking God to keep them well and to help them if they need healing, comfort,etc.

When I am afraid, angry, confused, I turn to prayer to keep my balance.

Now that my mom is receiving Hospice care, I find myself praying that she not suffer and for her to leave this world without suffering pain, I find myself asking God to take her in her sleep so that she can wake up in His loving arms.
I also cry my prayers deep in the night when I wake up with the sense of no longer having a mommy, that's the 6 year that's too afraid of losing her mom.

I also have this sort of talking to God prayer, where I share my hopes and dreams with him, share my fustrations, my fears and try to make deals with Him about all sorts of things but especially about my mother and children.

Dar said...

A day hemmed with prayer is less likely to come unraveled. I'm not sure where I heard that, but it pretty well describes my thoughts about prayer.

As others have said, I too find it difficult to get into deep, meditative prayer, but I find myself praying many, many times during the day. Prayer is what has sustained me during the tough times and the joyous times - the knowledge that God hears all my prayers.

My biggest difficulty isn't praying; it is listening for what God is saying to me!

mr. doug said...

Yes, listening is essential... Prayer is a conversation with God, and being open to how the Holy Spirit is moving in your life.

Something else that comes to me is that so often we focus on the good (a birth, getting a scholarship, good health), or we pray for others. But, what about the bad stuff that happens - the WHY GOD? type questions. You know, the stuff that gets you at the end of your rope, really ticked off. God needs to hear that as well. God needs to hear us when the bad is happening.

Otherwise, the relationship we have with God isn't really whole, I feel.

Anonymous said...

From Bryan: Prayer is my connection to the Lord. When I pray, the buzz of the world goes away (well I try to make it go away) and it’s just God and me. During my times of prayer, I get a bunch of stuff off my chest and I try to listen as well, although I talk a lot better than I listen.

I like to go outside and be around nature and commune. It helps me realize the awesome beauty and complexity of creation and that draws me closer to the Lord. I think of how beautiful the natural world is and what blessings I have been given just to be able to see it, to feel it, to smell it…how lucky I am to be able to sense the world around me. Giving thanks to God for how fortunate I am is what I enjoy most about praying. I realize each day how lucky I am, lucky for my material possessions like my apartment and clothes and food, but also for mercy and grace and forgiveness.

What is most painful is when I analyze the previous day and think about all of the sins I committed. I think about how many times I judged someone, how many times I criticized them or cut them down in my head. How many times did I gossip? How selfish was I? And this is the most painful because when I think about it I can be such a selfish and self-centered person. When I think of these things I’m really ashamed of myself, but I also realize that God loves me in spite of all the bad I do and that makes me feel better. However, if I’m being honest I feel like I have to be ashamed and I have to beat myself up, otherwise I don’t deserve to be forgiven…I know it sounds crazy and no I was never Catholic, but the guilt is strong in me.

Anyway, prayer is my time in the present with the Lord. I’m not worrying about the past or future. I’m just in the present with God and in that there is peace. David spoke about this once. He said that God is in the present and in the present there is peace. That really stuck with me. In the present is God and in God there is peace. There is peace in the present. I try real hard to stay in the present.

Anonymous said...

James here... Well, there's a couple of kinds of prayer, I think: first, the quick ones every time the airplane is about to take off, and then the contemplative ones, usually at night by myself when the (gas) fire is on. Prayer gives me comfort and hope, but mostly it reminds me of God's presence. Regularly I would ask of our former minister, "When someone is sick and we pray for them, are we actually expecting God to intervene and make them well?" If God could make them well, why would God want them to be sick in the first place? Why does God let bad things happen to good people (paraphrasing a book title), and if we are praying, why doesn't God make it better? The answer the minister kept giving me, and so far it's the only one that seems to make sense to me, is that in fact we are praying for God's presence and comfort. My sister is afraid now and struggling with illness, and I don't expect God is going to make her well. I am asking God to make his presence known to her so that she doesn't feel alone in this, so that she feels she has someone (other than our family) who understands her fear and pain. When I pray for myself, I just don't want to feel alone. I want to feel that I am loved, watched over and as I go though whatever is happening to me, there is someone who cares. I just don't expect, though, that prayer itself will cause God to waive a magic wand and make things better. Maybe I am wrong and that's something I feel differently about later in my faith journey, but that's where I'm at right now. I'm not alone.