Saturday, August 11, 2012

teach us to pray, dear Lord

I don't have my IPhone loaded up with a ton of apps...I am too easily distracted.  But one that I check about once a week is called Show of Hands.  Show of Hands is a mobile polling app that allows folks to anonymously respond to questions ranging from politics to ice cream cones.

What's really cool is that the app allows you to see how others voted, nationwide, statewide and by demographic breakdowns such as gender, age and political party affiliation.

I was tooling through the app the other morning and came across this question:  "do you pray daily?"
Yes...sure I do.  After choosing my selection I clicked on results - and was quite frankly shocked.  Over 11,000 people responded to the polling question and only 34% said they prayed daily.

The numbers were the same when I looked at Iowa's results.  And while there was a small uptick among self avowed Republicans, the numbers were still abysmal.


This got my head to spinning - I could rationalize all sorts of things about the people who use Show of Hands...I could play the blame game...or I could take some responsibility for being part of the religious establishment that obviously has done a lousy job walking alongside folks and teaching the most basic components of our faith - the blessings that come with daily conversation with God - aka prayer.  Prayer is really an important part of the journey!

I am not the most eloquent person when it comes to prayer, but I do find a wide variety of ways to pray.

There are times in my life when the more formal fixed hour prayer really works (this is especially helpful when I don't really feel like talking to God - or when my prayers stick to the roof of my mouth like peanut butter).  Here are two websites that have been a blessing to me in my faith journey.  Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals and the Divine Hours.

There are books full of lovely prayers by pillars of the faith.  I am especially fond of a little volume of prayers from the point of view of animals called Prayers from the Ark written by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold just after World War II.  I can imagine the comfort these prayers offered children in Europe after the atrocities that they witnessed and survived.

My daughter and I think the Prayer of the Butterfly was written especially for us:


Where was I?

Oh yes! This flower, this sun,
thank You! Your world is beautiful!
This scent of roses…

Where was I?

A drop of dew
rolls to sparkle in a lily’s heart.
I have to go…
Where? I do not know!

The wind has painted fancies
on my wings.


Where was I?

Oh yes! Lord,
I had something to tell you:


Fact is, there are tons and tons of prayer books as well as books on prayer out there  - and yet I wonder why is prayer so elusive?  Is it because talking with God seems intimidating?  or perhaps because we often forget the important part - waiting and listening for God?  (I am quite guilty of this one)

One of my seminary professors, Gary Hansen, wrote this one: Kneeling with Giants: Learning to pray with history's best teachers.  When I took the class that became the book I was reminded that we don't all learn alike, nor do we pray alike - and thats ok!

Breath prayers, praying as one goes about the regular activities of one's day - breathing in and breathing out phrases such as: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me," are a way to wrap oneself in prayer.

Norman Vincent Peale would use situations to prompt him to pray throughout his day.  I especially appreciated reading his story about saying a quick breath prayer, asking for God to bless and care for others, such as when he would see a mother and child in the most ordinary places such as a store or park.

Prayer connects us with others and with the world around us in ways we can't even begin to fathom.  I have prayed at bedsides as well as at community gatherings, over the phone and as my vehicle was spinning out of control on an icy road.  I can't imagine my life without prayer, even though I have never myself experienced the very voice of God answering, I keep on praying and when I do I feel connected with God and with others in mighty and powerful ways.

I have found that my favorite times of prayer involve holding the hand of another.  Ever since my children were little we've held hands and sung our prayer before dinner, the Johnny Apple Seed Song - that counts as prayer too!

The psalms are the go to book of the Bible for prayer.  Full of praise as well as lament (lament = a prayer of grief - kind of like shaking your fist as your enemy and even at God) praying the psalms is joining voices throughout history in prayer.  I especially like the progression from Psalm 22 to Psalm 23 and finally Psalm 24.  But that's just me.  Spend some time in the psalms and you will be introduced to all sorts of ways to pray.

And of course, there is the Lord's Prayer:

Our Father who art in heaven;
hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass
against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom
and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen

But none of these get to the big question.

Do you pray daily?

And if not, let's talk about it...this is something that I will surely pray about, ponder, and bring up in conversations here and amongst folks who are curious about prayer.  In the meanwhile, I simply say.  

Lord, thank you for this day - and for my friends and loved ones near and far away.  Amen.

on the journey, together,