The Many Ways of Prayer
The Need for Prayer
I'm Catholic. When I was growing up, my best friend was the son of a Baptist preacher. My father was Mormon before converting a few years ago to the Catholic faith. I've had friends and co-workers who are Jewish, Jehovah's Witnesses, Methodists, Lutherans, Christians, Baptists, Mormons, Episcopalians, Muslims, and Buddhists. I've even had some students who claimed to be Atheists. But what I have found throughout life, and throughout my personal and professional connections to people, is that we all have a need to pray. Yes, I said it, ALL of us share the basic fundamental need of needing to pray.
Now before anyone gets upset and starts clicking the comment button, give me a chance to be heard. Do you ever hope for something? Who doesn't? I'm not talking about a child hoping for a new bike, or me hoping that the restaurant where I'm having dinner will have blackberry cobbler. The hope of which I speak is for people to treat one another better, for a loved one to come through surgery all right, or for a child not to be bullied at school. Everyone hopes, and what is hope but a prayer?
What's in a Name?
It does not matter to whom you pray. I pray to God; others might call on Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, or even the Father of the Wind. Diverse cultures have different words for "mom" and "dad" as well. Let's not quibble over names. The important thing is that you feel that you have someone to whom you can send your prayer, or hope.
As a public school teacher I, of course, can not lead or suggest prayer to my students. However, when a fellow teacher was gravely injured some years ago, I asked my students to keep her and her family in their positive thoughts and to hope for the best. All of my students loved this teacher, and, regardless of their beliefs, they did this continually. Hopes can't just sit like a bump on a log, they have to be sent somewhere. Translated, those positive thoughts and hopes transformed themselves into daily prayers by those students, their parents, and everyone else who heard about what this teacher was up against. Despite a multitude of broken bones and numerous other injuries, that teacher returned to school in less than a year and continues to be a positive role model for her students. The power of prayer amazes, even if you don't realize that you are praying.
- www.prayerforce.org - Mother Teresa Quotes
Quotes by Mother Teresa on the power of prayer
Life is too Busy
"Life is too busy," you might say. "I'd like to find the time to pray, but I'm always running here and there. At night, I'm just too tired." Or, perhaps you are one of those who doesn't know how to pray. "I don't know what to say, or where to say it." That's okay. It's not rocket science. God is not the owner of a Fortune 500 company from whom you are asking for a raise. This is someone who cares about you, and is ready to listen to you whenever you are ready to talk.
I talk all the time. Just ask my husband, and he'll confirm that. So what's to stop me from talking to God? After all, he is the one who gave me a voice. So let me share some of the times in my busy day when I've been know to pray, and what I've said.
Talking to God on the Fly
- When something good happens (i.e. a baby smiles at me and it brightens my day) - "Thank you, God."
- When something bad could have happened (i.e. a car just barely misses me as I'm driving down the road) - "Thank you, God for keeping me safe. Please help that driver to be safe."
- When something bad happens (i.e. a friend has just phoned with troubling news) - "Dear God, please be with her today as she waits to hear the news."
- At school during a moment of silence - "Help all of us to have a good day. Please help me to provide the best education and to be a good role model. Help me to see the face of God in each child."
- When I talk to my dad on the phone - "Thank you, God, for allowing me to still have my father. Please keep him in good health."
- When I'm missing my mother - "Dear God, I miss Mom so much, but I'm glad she is no longer in pain. Thank you for blessing me with such good parents."
- When I don't get a job that I've got my heart set on - "God, I don't understand, but I do understand that you have a better plan for me."
- When you have a "prayer list" - (i.e. friends, loved ones, friends of friends who need prayers) - "Dear God, I offer up all that I do today for all of those on my prayer list who are in need of prayer, and for all of those who aren't on anyone's prayer list who are also in need of prayer."
"Dear God, It's Me Donna"
See, it's not rocket science. If it were, I couldn't do it. But if you're like me, there are times when you want, and need, something more significant. So what then? Well, it all depends. There are so many ways to pray. Different people feel comfortable praying in different ways. Below are just some of the ideas that work for me:
- I'm a church-goer. I go to church every Sunday. I was raised that way, and I actually feel better about myself, and the world around me after I've been. Even on days when I haven't felt well, I feel better once I'm at church.
- I also grew up in church and school choirs, and was taught that "singing is praying twice." Now, as a member of my church choir and a cantor/song leader, I feel that I am an instrument in leading the congregation to prayerful reflection and jubilation through song. It's an added way for me to pray, and to share that prayer.
- Steal some quiet time. Sometimes I go into the guestroom where I keep my hamster. I close the door (more to keep the dog out than anything), cuddle with my hamster, reflect on the day and thank God for what's gone right in the day. For anything that hasn't gone right, I ask him to help me through it, and to help me learn from it.
- When I am home alone, I turn off the television, radio, etc., and sit quietly. Sometimes I use the time to thank God; other times I use it to ask for something from God. Sometimes I just use it to praise God for all the good that is around me.
- Journaling. Whether you keep a diary, a simple reflection of something that happened, a gratitude journal, or you read a Bible verse and write about what you got from the verse, writing your feelings down is very therapeutic for the soul. It is calming, and allows you to go back at a later date, when you might be having difficulties with your spiritual life, to remind yourself of your beliefs.
- Soft music, whether from a C.D., radio, or your own piano playing, can help to slow you down to be ready to talk to God, and to listen.
- Standard prayers, such as The Lord's Prayer, The Hail Mary, and The Rosary provide the comfort of ritual, and allows the reciter to visualize the prayers
Again, these are just some of the countless ways in which I choose to pray. While prayer can be a group event, such as at church, the way in which one chooses to pray is extremely personal. Choose what is right for you, so that you AND God get the most from it.
"I Don't Think God is Listening..."
"I don't think God is listening, I didn't get what I wanted." How many times have we all felt that way? We want something so badly, and pray to God fervently for it, but to no avail. Don't feel discouraged. When you were younger did your parents always get you what you asked for? Just because they didn't fulfill your wishes, didn't mean that they weren't listening to you. Sometimes my parents did not want me to have things because what I wanted was dangerous, a waste of money, or would only become part of my collection of discarded toys. I later learned that my parents always knew best.
God not only is listening to your prayers, but he is also considering what is truly best for you. You may not feel that he is answering your prayers, but "No" is an answer, too. Just like from our parents, we need to learn to accept his answer. That does not mean we stop praying. On the contrary, continue praying. As a matter of fact, PUSH -- Pray Until Something Happens. It might not be what you want to happen, but in time you will realize that God had a plan all along and that his plan makes sense.