Q. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is responding to God, by thoughts and deeds, with or without words.
BCP, page 856
Many Prayers – Many Ways to Pray
Lent is prime time for prayer. If you have never prayed before, Lent calls you to give it a try. Those who pray infrequently can use these days as an opportunity to generate a habit that can last a lifetime. Those whose prayer has grown stale can find new ways to connect. Those who pray unceasingly find new depths of prayer in Lent.
Our church teaches that prayer is response to the primary action of God. God is always creating, seeking, and finding new ways of building relationship. A good first step into prayer is watching, listening, sensing God’s activity around us. Taking a walk, reading a book, or baking a loaf of bread can open our senses to perceive the gifts that God has scattered around us. For many people, gratitude is a first step into prayer. Noticing God’s presents can lead us into God’s presence!
The form of our response can vary. For some, prayer is about the words we say. This can be formal, like the Lord’s Prayer or the Grace we say before meals. Prayer can also be a conversation, speaking to God as one would to a friend or a loving relative. The writings of Jan Richardson in her Painted Prayerbook http://paintedprayerbook.com or the English blogger Malcolm Guite can be very evocative https://malcolmguite.wordpress.com/blog/
Some people are helped by a guided meditation. I find the Irish Jesuit site Sacred Space always has insights that draw me into a response to God. http://www.sacredspace.ie. Most recently I have found Busted Halo, a useful digital portal for prayer. Their Virtual Stations of the Cross are quite good http://bustedhalo.com/video/virtual-stations-of-the-cross.
Prayer can also include action. We can respond to God by buying food for our Backpack Ministry or the Grasonville Food Pantry. We can respond by helping the Soup Group or the Altar Guild prepare for their work. We can give our time in a community group or a help a neighbor in a quiet way. Try doing your charitable work as an act of prayer, an act of responding to all that God has done and is doing for you.
I love the fact that our church’s teaching about prayer expands to everyone. While the catechism goes on to ask particularly about Christian prayer: “Christian prayer is response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit”; it is completely possible to pray with people from other traditions. God is larger than our church or even Christianity. Praying with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and others is completely within our tradition.
We don’t need words to pray. We don’t need strength to serve. What we truly need is the eyes and ears to perceive what God has done; everything else will flow into the deep stream of the world in prayer. God bless you in this Holy Season of Lent.
Almighty God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name: We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ear to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP page 834)