Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray to God my soul to take.
If I should live for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.
Father, unto thee I pray,
Thou hast guarded me all day;
Safe I am while in thy sight,
Safely let me sleep tonight.
Bless my friends, the whole world bless;
Help me to learn helpfulness;
Keep me ever in thy sight;
So to all I say good night.
There is a fair amount of consternation about why we should pray. Most of us know about the foxhole payer where we ask God to get us out of a particular mess and we will agree to do heavy penance. Our intentions are good, albeit short-lived. And many of us have presented a shopping list to God hoping that it will be fulfilled. Then we shake our heads and tell ourselves that prayer doesn’t work. Prayer is not merely making supplications before God for our needs. Prayer is the connection between humans and God, communicating with each other.
Thankfully, there is no one way of praying and those who have the need for prayer find their own way. Prayer is definitely a conversation with God. Since my thinking is often my source of chaos, I always ask God to direct my thinking. It works for me, but I have to be attentive. I also engage in Centering Prayer, whereby I attempt to empty my mind of distraction and hopefully gain direction from the Divine. Action is a necessary part of prayer; helping those in need, getting on with our daily work, and putting every moment into the presence of God. Singing, playing an instrument, saying a prayer aloud in groups, public worship, or simply silence are all part of connecting with the Divine.
Prayer is a way of relating to God, to ourselves, to those around us. In opening our hearts and minds and souls to God we are challenged to grow, change, and to love. Just as we make time to spend with those we love, so in making time to pray we are seeking to grow in our relationship with the Divine.
Prayer is being in the moment, being present, being open to new ways. It is a way of learning to become our TRUE SELVEs and to be comfortable in the presence of God. Since GOD is a presence that infuses every moment and every space, prayer focuses our attention in order to encounter the Divine.
I want to know the way of the Divine so that I can change; be open to transformation, to becoming more loving, peaceful, gracious, compassionate. It’s not an easy path and being open in prayer can often be a painful experience as we find and confront those parts of ourselves which we might not be keen on seeing.
You can pray anytime and anywhere. The freedom to pray anywhere, though, often leads to praying nowhere. We should absolutely pray spontaneously whenever and wherever prayers arise in our hearts — during a break at work, before a test, in line with our groceries. But our lives are fueled by prayer, so we shouldn’t leave it up to spontaneity. Pick a time and a place to be silent and pray on a consistent basis.
For some people, setting aside time to be alone with God is intimidating. In fact, for many today, any time alone at all — no friends, no television, no phones — is unnerving. After all, we are speaking to almighty God here. He already knows everything we need and everything we are going to say. One important thing to learn early on about prayer is that it truly is a conversation. God is truly listening when we pray.
If we’re honest, many of us lack courage and imagination in our prayer lives. We have a tiny little box of routine things we’re willing to ask God for, and we take on everything else — our questions, our frustrations, our dreams — on our own. We assume God’s not interested in or doesn’t have time for the small details of our day. And we can’t even imagine him conquering a global crisis, so we settle for middle-of-the-road mediocre requests. We wait to pray about something until it becomes “serious enough” for God to care about. Accordingly, we deprive ourselves of his mercy and power in massive areas of our life and world.
Prayer is powerful.
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t. michael smith