I Google just about everything, Google being a verb in this case. I Google people I already know and those I don’t know. During this pandemic, I Googled how to trim my own bangs, and in March and April, I was obsessed with Googling how many coronavirus cases we had in the U.S. Recently, in an act of desperation, I Googled how to pray. So much advice. I could pray alone, with a group, outdoors, indoors in a quiet place, even online with other people. The list was long.
Even though I think of prayer as a conversation I have with God, mostly one-sided it seems a lot of the time, I still wonder if I am doing it right. Are there other people out there who pray better than I do? Or should I just keep going, praying in my own sometimes desperate, sometimes loving, sometimes hopeful way.
I’ve tried contemplative prayer, which I find incredibly powerful, and can help me feel a closer connection to the divine. Around 15 years ago, I even joined a weekly prayer group made up of five people once a week in my landlord’s apartment. There was some singing and chanting involved, and that intimidated me. Even my “church voice” sounds a little like a screeching bird in my own ears, so that was short-lived. Another thing I like to do is to take part in what Catholics call Eucharistic adoration, sitting quietly in front a large version of the Eucharist (communion wafer) and remembering that when we take consecrated communion (bread and/or wine) during Mass, that Jesus is present in them, that they become for us the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. When I sit there focused on that concept, it feels like I’m actually sitting with Jesus, and that too leads to a profound feeling.
But what about every day? What about when I’m not practicing all those other ways I feel connected to God? Then what’s the best way to keep that connection going?
The best I can come up with is to focus on gratitude, when all else fails. Many, many thank-yous for all the wonderful things I continue to experience in my life. For the very simple things like being able to drive past the ocean on my way to the grocery store, and the way I feel sitting in my red fold-up chair all alone at Lucy Vincent Beach on a mild January day. Sometimes I look at my kids and remember to thank God for them. And for my husband and for our insanely sweet dog.
There are so many things to be grateful for when you live here. All you have to do is step outside. When we first moved to the Island, I was mesmerized by the sound of the wind in the trees around our house. I’d sit on the deck with a cup of coffee and just listen. There were no sirens, no city noise, no sounds really except birds and the leaves rustling. I think that was the first time I really paid attention to that sound. Now when I hear it, it immediately takes me back to that feeling. Just listening felt like a prayer.
Of course, like many people, I tend to focus on prayer a lot when things aren’t going great, when I need help. I’m not above begging when it comes to prayer. There’s a lesson there too. Every time I’m facing something that seems completely insurmountable, when I’m devastated and can’t see my way through, I pray. There’s not usually a “quick miracle” prayer that I employ, though I wish there was. What happens is that it opens up a conversation with God, I ask him for help in whatever form he’d like to provide. That’s the trick. He doesn’t audibly give me a wonderful “It’ll be all right, Connie, just hang in there.” Instead, the calm I get from prayer enables me to look at my own possible solutions, to figure out what I can do in that moment to alleviate my anxiety and pain. And for that, I truly am grateful.
How about you? How do you communicate with the divine? I’d love to hear about it.
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