Daily Prayer

It matters to me to have time for prayer daily. I recommend the practice to you. The prayer can take many forms and when and how it happens can vary as individual circumstances vary.

I particularly like morning prayer—since I am most likely to take the time because it happens before much else does. It also means that I start my day remembering that all is in God, maybe remembering to walk with Jesus. I practice Centering Prayer. Some people may want simply a time of stillness or a brief period of meditation, or even just a morning ritual stretch—maybe a reaching up “Good morning, God” and a bowing “Thank you for this day.” Or maybe a daily time of intercessory prayer on the commute to work, with a planned different category of persons or things to pray for and about each day.

The morning prayer could also be a devotional reading. There are plenty of books, monthly guides, and websites that can direct your content—readings from C.S. Lewis, Richard Rohr, Joan Chittister, poetry selections; Sacred Space; denominational guides such as Give Us This Day or Moravian Daily Texts. Sharing this time is especially sweet—with a person who shares your living space or by having a partner at a distance who is reading the same thing (or just praying at the same time). Bible reading can provide rich food—reading one Psalm a day or one each day for a week, praying slowly through a gospel one small passage at a time, or following a daily lectionary.

Evening prayer—remembering the day and noticing the gifts and learnings in the day, embodied prayer like praying the rosary, or simply taking time to commune with God—is just as valuable.

I find such prayer is like doing a jigsaw puzzle. When I start a new puzzle and the pieces are dumped chaotically out on the table, I like to find the edge pieces and put them together, forming a frame that begins to suggest some order for all the other pieces. A daily time of prayer creates a frame around all my day.

Queries:

What resistance do you have to drawing inward in prayer, stillness, or meditation, and especially to a daily practice of it?

What name do you use for that One who brings life– God, Higher Power, Jesus, Mary, Light, Love, Inward Teacher—and what does that name mean to you?

Prayer:

See suggestions above.

For further reflection:

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, [Jesus] got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (see Mark 1:32-35).

“And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight” (see Philippians 1: 3-11).

Hands-On Prayer

As a chaplain I attended Quakers in Pastoral Care and Counseling (QPCC). We were divided into small groups for sharing about our work situations. At the end of those sessions we prayed for one another, putting one person at a time in the center of the group. That person shared specific joys, concerns, and hopes. The other group members gathered around the person, touching the person (being sensitive to what was comfortable for the focus person and the pray-ers) and praying for her or him aloud and silently. I left those sessions feeling encouraged, supported, and grounded in God.

In another small group of which I am currently a part, we used this practice in praying for persons in the group. Although we had earlier acknowledged questions and qualms about intercessory prayer, the impact of this intercessory praying was palpable and powerful. Love and care, compassion and a sense of oneness literally coursed through our bodies. I would have to say that the bond we sensed between us was more than a human connection. And I feel confident that the experience meant as much to those who prayed as to those who were prayed for. We were all touched by the presence and love of God.

Obviously the focus person can share a need for his or her own healing. But the person can also carry a concern for someone else’s healing and be the vehicle for prayers for that other person. And this prayer is a great way for sending a person off on a mission or back into the workplace and ordinary life, an occasion of thanksgiving and blessing. What is required for this kind of praying is simple, and hard—being willing to be vulnerable with one another and with God.

Queries:

How have you felt God’s touch in your life? If God touched you, would you notice?

How do you find the loving line between sensitivity to the wounds people have suffered from being hurtfully touched and extending a physical expression of God’s love?

Prayer:

Find a way to express God’s love in a tangible way, or notice how someone else has given that gift to you.

For further reflection:

“Some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.” (See Mark 8: 22-26.)

“Mind that which is eternal, which gathers your hearts together up to the Lord, and lets you see that ye are written in one another’s heart.” George Fox (Epistle 24, 1653)

Praying for Someone

My grandson Jack knocked out his one permanent upper-front tooth. His parents took him to the dentist, who attempted to re-set it. The expectation was that it would either reattach or be rejected. My heart was heavy with concern for him. I couldn’t help but hold him in prayer. I also asked friends to pray for him.

What was I doing? I prayed passionately, with lots of caring energy. And I specifically prayed for his tooth to reattach. As far as I know that is the best thing that could happen for him. The accident would be overcome and he would have less trauma to go through. Sometimes when people pray like this they are in effect trying to work magic—to manipulate God by saying the right words, praying hard enough, getting enough people to pray, or whatever it might take to get God to bring the healing they want.

As a chaplain in oncology I once had a patient who had been struggling with breast cancer for many years but whose body had had enough. Her family had prayed for her through the years, with many remissions. They couldn’t bear to have her die. They asked me to pray for her, hoping that my prayers would get God to let her live even if theirs weren’t getting that result. When she did die, they were in such despair that they gave up on God and left their church.

In order to avoid this pain, some people pray only for God’s will in the particular situation, believing that that is the right way to pray—to be suitably humble. Others simply don’t believe in an interventionist God, a God who cares and who impacts specific situations in human life.

I pray what is in my heart. God knows my heart; there is no point in trying to cover it up. I also know that there is a much larger picture that I cannot see or comprehend. I trust that God loves and wants good. And I let go the prayer. Such praying brings community, strengthens my ability for love and compassion, and keeps me honest and humble, attuned to mystery and paradox.

Queries:

What do you think about intercessory prayer? What is your experience?

If there is that of God in every person, how might that of God in you relate to praying for others?

Prayer:

Pray as you can, not as you can’t. Sometimes action is the prayer to choose.

For further reflection:

“I pray that . . . he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit . . .” (See Ephesians 3: 14-19).

“Praise the Lord . . . who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases . . .” (See Psalm 103: 1-6).