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One way to organize and strengthen our prayer life is to integrate our prayers with the events of daily life. As our calendar merges with our prayer, our days become clearer, healthier, more sure; others are blessed and the record of our time becomes a record of our growing understanding of prayer and the God to whom we pray. You will see as you turn the pages of this book that there is room to note your schedule as you ponder quietly a variety of time-honored prayers, prayers written in our times, meditations, questions, exercises, first-person, and author experiences. The Appendix offers biblical meditations. My hope is that you will use this book as a day-by-day guide to a year of unfolding prayer in your life, one prayer at a time.
There is no one who hasn't prayed at some time in some way. From a simple, "Oh God, I hope not," to the formalized prayer of denomination, to a deep, personal, silent expression to the Divine, we all pray with the hope that the Mind of the Spirit will teach us and show us the meaning of our prayers.
I know, Lord, that you are all-powerful.
From one generation to another he shows mercy to those who honor him.
Mary, mother of Jesus. Luke 1:50
"I saw the river on one side of me and the Empire State Building in front of me and I said, 'Oh my God!'"
These three words were enough. The pilot of the blimp had only a few moments between the time the huge airborne craft lost power and the time it would fall into the river or hit the Empire State Building.
Rather than fall into the river or hit the skyscraper, the pilot saw, after calling on God, the large, flat roof of a nearby seven-story building. The blimp landed safely, disturbing only a few surprised sunbathers on the other side of the roof, saving not only the pilot's life but sparing the heart of the city and the waterway a monumental disaster.
The prayer "Oh my God," worked for the pilot of the blimp. Why? Because it is simple, direct and to the point? Because it is unambiguous? There is, after all, no evidence that long prayers are better than short ones, no proof that "Have-mercy-on-me-for-I-am-a-miserable-sinner-and-I-know-that-I-do-not-deserve- your-help-but-please-intervene-here-and-help-my-miserable-self" is more effective than, simply, "Oh God."
God knows exactly how to get you out of trouble. He has not forgotten how to part the sea.
We may be used to lengthy prayers that sound glorious rolling off the tongue, prayers that make us look pious and sincere in front of our friends, family and neighbors, but as God is all-powerful and everpresent there is no fooling God. There is no way to tell the Divine something Divinity does not already know. We know that if prayer is insincere or recited only for effect, it is no prayer at all, no matter the length and familiarity or the text.
Did the three-word prayer of the blimp pilot work because a sincere call to God works? Or did it work because there is nothing unknown to God, no context where God is not and where someone has not been before us?
"Oh God" sums up the constants of prayer:
God is All.
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Prayer is the language of spiritual sense.
Spiritual sense is a sixth sense. Though not as widely recognized as the five physical senses, still, spiritual sense is innate genetically encoded in all of us. Each individual possesses spiritual sense. And as eyes speak the language of imagery, ears the language of sound, spiritual sense speaks the language of prayer. Spiritual sense is not found in formulas but in highly original and often unexpected ways.
I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.
I'd always been a good girl. I was ten when I was sent to the convent school, fifteen when I entered the novitiate and at eighteen I became a nun. I did everything I was told and was happy to serve but when I was in my middle forties and it came time to go on our annual retreat I was feeling very burdened by all the demands on me. I really dreaded another retreat where the priest would tell me to be more obedient in order to find relief from all the work I had to do. And then I was sent to a retreat where the spiritual director was a woman and not a man. Instead of telling me what to do she asked me, "What would you like to do on this retreat?" "I'd like to go to the mountains," I said. And so I did and for two weeks I just sat on the mountainside and looked at the flowers and the clouds and enjoyed the sun and the wind, and I thought, Oh God, this is so beautiful. I just lay there in the grass and the most remarkable thing happened. I heard a voice it sounded just like my voice except it wasn't and the voice said, "Angie, I think you should go into politics." I couldn't believe it but I was pretty excited and I ran to tell my spiritual director and she just looked at me. Well, to make a long story short I went back to my order, asked for permission to run for City Council and now I have been on the Council for twelve years.
I got that water system for the poor part of town passed the second year I was on the Council.
We all live in a context. The question is, what is that context? Is it theology, biology, an endless round of evil and despair, overworked lives and out-of-reach promises? Or is the context Divine the essence of Truth. Is it what our poets, prophets and saints have told us, that "in him we live, and move, and have our being"?
(Paul: Acts 17:28)
What context do I live in, move in and acknowledge as my individual life?
Prayer is hearing the Divine Context as if it is our own voice.
One test of whether the voice you hear speaking is Spirit is to ask yourself. will others be benefited too?
...[W]hat doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?
Prayer is saying No.
Prayer is a resounding No to helpless victimization anytime, anywhere.
No to fear.
No to apathy.
No to being stuck.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
It started with a pain in my leg. I limped along in that pain for a while until the day my boss told me I couldn't come back to work unless I went to the doctor. The doctor said the X rays showed I had cancer of the spine. I got my affairs in order and moved back home to die. But instead of dying conveniently I got worse and couldn't walk or eat at all. A second doctor said I might have poison chemicals in my system from the time I spent in Asia. A third doctor told me I could possibly be cured through electric shock. My family sent me to a hospice to die. Still I didn't die. A friend took me to her home to spend my last days. She pulled a chair up across the room from my bed and said, "What do you think this is? Is it cancer, is it an unknown disease, is it a broken heart or something you did in a past life?"
"It's nothing," I said. I am not sure where those words came from but that's what I said, "It's nothing."
She left the room, discouraged. I took a nap, woke an hour or so later, walked into the shower and realized I was standing for the first time in five months and that I was completely well. I went to Italy the next week for the summer. That was about twenty years ago.
Dear Miss Manners:
I agree with your theory about how to say "No." But I have tried it, and I just can't stop after that one word "No." It sounds so curt. So to cover that, I go back into all that complicated talk, and get myself right back into the trouble I am trying to avoid. Help!
The way to say "No" is often.
All evil strivings are directed against life. Destructiveness is the outcome of an unlived life. The evil has no independent existence of its own, it is the absence of the good, the result of the failure to realize life.
Prayer is saying Yes.
Yes to life.
Yes to love.
Yes to change.
Prayer is a resounding yea! to all possible combinations of good.
I say Yes to the following:
Just say, "Yes" or "No" anything else you have to say comes from the Evil One.
Jesus of Nazareth. Matthew 5:37
The Holy Bible: Today's English Version
We pray when we love our neighbor.
Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourselves.
I work on the religion section of one of the major on-line bulletin boards. Every day before I log on I spend time in prayer. I pray to be of service, to know where to go on the board and to be there if anyone should need help. I do this as a matter of course and didn't think much about it until one night, late, just before I was getting ready to sign off it occurred to me to go look at a Faith topic I hardly ever visit. Suicide, a woman had written. Her note had been posted just a minute before, so I wrote her back immediately and told her to hang on and I called right away to the headquarters of the BB service. It was 3:45 in the morning there and they woke up the supervisor at home and he called the police in the town where the young woman lived and they went to her house and saved her. All this took about ten minutes. I was in Hawaii, the bulletin board headquarters in New York, the young woman in Oklahoma. A few hours later the young woman wrote back: "Thank you. The police were here."
Prayer works, I think, even before we know exactly where and how. All the dimensions of this event made me think how many dimensions there are to God, to prayer, to time and to space. Surely all physical barriers were nonexistent and technology was the tool for the answered prayer of the young woman and of myself. Twenty years ago I would never have thought of a computer or cyberspace. Now I wonder what the next century will be like and how much more immediate God and prayer will seem.
And now, quite a few of us write the woman regularly. She knows she has friends in cyberspace and on earth.
There are only two duties which our Lord requires of us, namely, the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. In my opinion, the surest sign for discovery whether we observe these two duties is the love of our neighbour; since we cannot know whether we love God, though we may have strong proof of it; but this can be more easily discovered respecting the love of our neighbour. And be assured, that the further you advance in that love, the more will you advance in the love of God likewise.
Saint Teresa of Avila
Loving our neighbor as ourselves has been interpreted in and for each generation in near countless ways. I wonder myself if it isn't a life's work to know what it means to love my neighbor as myself.
Confucius was asked: Is there one principle upon which one's whole life may proceed? His response was: Is not Reciprocity such a principle? What you do not yourself desire, do not put before others.
I find life an exciting business, and most exciting when it is lived for others.
Copyright © 1996 by Lynne Bundesen