Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

I have an education. I've been to graduate school. I've worked in the corporate world.
I don't want to brag, but I seem to be of average intelligence, maybe a little more.

I have an ego. I have pride.
I am not a conservative, or a Fundamentalist of any kind.

I have never seen a burning bush.

No voice has ever called my name from somewhere behind a cloud.
I have not sat down with my God and calmly discussed building an ark, moving to another place and calling myself a prophet, being swallowed by a whale or even ordering a pizza.

But I believe in prayer.

Let me be more specific.

I believe in the awesome, world changing, sometimes earth shattering power of falling to my knees and sharing my joy and my pain with the God of my heart. I believe in the utter sweetness of humbly coming to something greater than I could imagine, knowing that no matter what I have done, I am still loved and welcome there.

I believe in pausing to recognize the miraculous in the mundane. I believe in self-analysis.

I believe in the call to pray without ceasing, to let your life be a conversation with the Divine, spoken so clearly that anyone who meets you can follow along.

I believe that the world is too much with us and there must be moments where there is a sacred stillness.

I believe that sometimes you have to take a minute to feel your connection with all that is and was and will be. Sometimes you have to reach out to the bones of your ancestors and the bedrock of our planet. Sometimes you have to let go of all of the dreams and schemes and hopes and plans and feel the sunlight on your face and the wind in your hair.

I believe in quiet.

I believe in saying thanks.

I believe in recognizing that while I may be Divine, I am not God

I believe in the strength that comes from taking a moment to focus my thoughts beyond the confines of my own head, to share what is happening even if the only words I can form are those Anne Lamott chose.

Wow. Help. Thanks. (* see footnote)

Simple words.
And sometimes we need simple words, because prayer language is a foreign language for many of us.

Prayer, for many Unitarian Universalists, is something they either never learned much about, or it is that foreign language they learned as a child in another place and another faith, which has faded away over time.

For some Jews prayer is something that comes from words in a siddur, or prayer book. Observant Jews pray three or more times a day, usually ritual words written for them thousands of years ago. Every prayer must involve both the intent to speak to the Divine, and ritual speech or action.

For mystic or Kabbalistic Jews prayer affects the very fabric of the universe. It is action through speech, precisely calculated to have an impact on the natural and supernatural worlds.

For Rationalist and humanist Jews prayer is discourse, a form of self-analysis through asking questions and making statements to a theoretical Divine listener, and working through potential answers or replies. Other Jews view prayer as a tool to create a mind-set or attitude in the one who prays, with no connection to any other outside being or presence.

Muslim prayers are both written and spontaneous. Prayer is shared together 5 times a day, and after the shared prayers any personal prayers may be spoken.

For Christians, prayers have many forms, and sometimes different targets. Some pray to God, others to Jesus, some ask Mary, the mother of Jesus, to speak to God for them. Some add in the saints and the martyrs and all the departed faithful. Some pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There are prayers organized into prayer books, and there are spontaneous prayers, and in some churches there is praying in tongues- praying in words not recognized as part of any language, which they consider to be a gift of the Holy Spirit.

Some of us were told there is a right way and a wrong way to pray. Some of us were forced to pray, and some have never spoken a prayer in their lives.

Some have only heard prayers like the morbid “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Or maybe grace-
Bless us,
O Lord,
and these your gifts,
which we are about to receive
from your bounty.
Through Christ our Lord.

-which I have never heard said with either grace or deep meaning.

And somewhere in there many of us came to believe that if we were doing prayer differently, if we were atheist, or humanist, or Wiccan, that we were essentially writing a letter and sending it to the dead letter office.

We got told that if we didn’t believe in a supernatural god, well, we could pick up the sacred phone but there would be no one home.

And that, my beloved people, is wrong.

You get to pray. And it is a real prayer, whether you believe in a God or Goddess or a great cosmic muffin or nothing much at all.

Prayer can be a form of religious or spiritual practice. It can be whatever you need it to be. Prayer does not have to be defined.

It may happen in public or in private, by yourself or in a group or with a clergy person. It may involve the use of words, song or complete silence. It is yours.

Spoken prayer can be a song, an incantation designed to make something happen, a formal statement of belief, or an unplanned stream of words. Prayer can be a dance. It can throw you to the ground, it can make you shake to your bones. It can break you to tears.

Prayers can ask, or beg. Prayers can thank or praise.

Prayers can be a conversation with your God or your Goddess, your spirit guide or your ancestors. Prayers can be to the planet or the universe, or to anyone who happens to be listening. You get to pick up the phone. You get to decide if you are talking to someone or something or simply engaging in rational self-assessment.

Prayers can be a conversation with the darkness about where to find the light.

Some prayers are planned. Some just happen, but you have to make and hold the space for them to happen in.

Take a walk. Go sit quietly. Take a breath. Think silently or speak loudly.

Pray. Tell the truth as you know it. Ask the questions. Ask for answers.

Help me. Lead me. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to do. I’m so alone. Hear me. See me. Tell me where to go.

Shine on me. Wrap me in your grace. Love me. Heal me. Heal them. Help them.

Make me a better person.

Help me change the world.

Wow. Thanks. Help.

Prayer is the moment between the now and the not yet. The moment when you strip away all that stands between you and the universe, when you show yourself without the masks.

It’s the moment where you stand with your naked heart in your hands, bleeding. Raw. Open.
It’s the moment where you stand naked before the Life that enwraps you.
It’s the moment when you hear the heart beat matching yours, once again.

Prayer is the breath you take when you see your child born. Prayer is when you stare mouth open and eyes wide at the most beautiful sunset you have ever known.

Prayer is the moment when it hurts so badly, when you are so frightened, that all you can say is “please.”

Prayer is the heartbeat when the bad passes you by without harm.Prayer is when you cannot understand how you are still standing.

Prayer is when you find your center, and dwell in it, if only for a few minutes.

Prayer is when you hold out your raw heart, and welcome grace.

Wow. Help. Thanks.


(* "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers" by Anne Lamott

No comments:

Post a Comment