Do you ever say a quick prayer before you do something, like have an important conversation you’ve been dreading, or making a decision that’s been weighing on you, or maybe before writing a column that feels uninspired? I always do, and usually it helps.
I remember being so nervous when the first issue I was responsible for at my previous job was about to arrive. Did I pick the right choice for the cover art? Were the stories interesting? Were they inspiring? Would anyone even read them? I had my doubts. But I prayed anyway while I was working on it, asking God to help me choose the right words, make the right decisions, and to guide me while I was doing it all. I like to think he came through for me. If nothing else, my faith that he would helped immensely.
Prayer is such a versatile thing. You can carry it around in your pocket, ready to take it out whenever you need to. You can use it to pray for other people — those you love and those you don’t even know. You can cry out in prayer when everything else has let you down, or left you stranded and alone. When someone you know is hurt or suffering, you can pray for them, and sometimes they say they feel lifted up by your prayers. People on Facebook ask for prayers at times, then they get lots of praying hands emojis or maybe a couple of tiny white angel wings in response, or maybe a smiley face with a halo above it. Everybody, it seems, needs prayers.
In the Christian tradition, you’ve always got the Our Father or Hail Mary to go to when your own words fail you, because let’s face it, sometimes we just can’t find the words. A quick reciting of the Lord’s Prayer under your breath at least gives you time to pause and readjust your mindset for a moment. It reminds you to bring yourself back to your center, or back to wherever it is that grounds you. Reminds you that this too shall pass.
I remember when I was little, kindergarten maybe, and Mrs. Edwards at Most Holy Name of Jesus School was helping us memorize some simple prayers. It just seemed like memorizing random words to me, until we got into the beautiful church with all the statues and stained glass and we recited them there. Then they seemed magical. Maybe that’s when I first recognized the mystical nature prayer can take on.
These days prayer is more like a conversation with God, Jesus, Mary, or the angels and saints. I wait for them to respond — What’s the first thing that pops into my head when I’m done? Is that my answer? Will I have to wait for my answer instead, watching for it to show up like some kind of beacon? I’ve got so many questions around these one-way discussions we have. Am I doing it right? Would you hear me better if I prayed aloud, or should I keep it quiet, like in Matthew 6: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” I like the alone version better, keeping my transgressions, foibles, and desperation to myself.
Prayer is many things — simple and complex at the same time. I like the idea of carrying it around with me all day, it’s sort of a comfort realizing it’s there with me. Almost like a pencil and notepad or my cell phone, very useful and reliable. And I hope I never lose it.
The First Baptist Church on William Street in Vineyard Haven hosts a Spring Tea and Sale on Saturday, May 6, from 1 to 3 pm. There will be food and gifts for sale at the parish house, along with sandwiches and cookies to enjoy. And I bet there will be tea. This is a fundraiser, with admission set at $15 for adults and $10 for children under 12.
The Hebrew Center has been hosting Meditative Morning Prayer with Kohenet Batya Diamond on the last Tuesday of each month, from 9 to 10 am. The center’s website describes it as “welcoming the day with ancient Jewish wisdom, contemplative prayer and chants, and silent meditation.” The sessions are accessible to all, and you don’t need previous experience with meditation to participate. Check out mvhc.us for more information, and put it on your calendar for May 30.
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