I have/had trouble praying

From the time I was small, I’ve had a problem with prayer.  As long as I stick to standard prayers – the Lord’s Prayer and some other memorized prayers- I am alright but as soon as I go off into prayers for specific people or situations I get stuck and my mind wanders.  But that isn’t quite true, my mind also wanders during the Lord’s Prayer, any prayer or any time for that matter.rock_5343_2s

I got into a conversation about this with three of my friends, all of them solid church goers and dedicated contributors to the community.  All four of us admitted to problems with prayer.  All of us are men and one of us is a minister.   Now that I think about it we never did pursue that problem very far, perhaps none of us knew quite what to do.

Some weeks later and in a different context the minister friend recommended Barbara Brown Taylor’s ‘An Altar in the World:  A Geography of Faith.’  Ms. Taylor had been an Episcopal priest for several years before going into writing and teaching full time.  She had been named by Baylor University as one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English speaking world.  I had been prepared to take her seriously anyway but that pushed her book to the top of my reading list.  The deeper I got into the book the more interesting it got.  And then there was this:

‘I would rather show someone my checkbook stubs than talk about my prayer life.  I would rather confess that I am a rotten godmother, that I struggle with my weight, that I fear I am overly fond of Bombay Sapphire gin martinis than confess I am a prayer-weakling.  To say I love God but I do not pray much is like saying I love life but I do not breathe much.’  (p 176)

Now she really had my attention.  And to cap it off a few pages later she took her cue from Brother David Steindl-Rast, author of ‘Gratefulness, The Heart Of Prayer’, in suggesting that

‘Prayer…is waking up to the presence of God no matter where I am or what I am doing.’  (p 178)

Alright!  Prayer isn’t just a recitation of fixed passages or verbal requests for God’s attention.  I knew that all along but for a truly outstanding minister to admit she has trouble praying, as I suspect many of us do, was quite a revelation.  But she went further than our little group of four men had gone by pointing out that just being aware of the presence of God no matter what we are doing is a form of prayer.  And_there_was_light_7289_7289_2

If we are wiping a child’s nose, running a backhoe, mowing the lawn, watching a ball game, helping out in a soup kitchen, playing with the dog, any of these activities – and are aware of the presence of God, we are praying.  I think that would include the activity of photography.

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