15 July 2013

What is Prayer?

[[Dear Sister, My question is , what is prayer? I know god knows all things and could cure my Sister-in-law should he so choose. I also know from my grade school days there are prayers of petition, of thanksgiving and others that I cannot remember right now. How does one, you, spend time in prayer? What do you think about while spending this time? Perhaps focusing on the life of a saint, say Saint Bonifacius, Saint Anne; a parable from the New Testament? A psalm? A story, and its message, from the Old Testament. A concept like Sanctifying Grace, the Communion of saints, etc.]]

 Hi there,
     I guess the most basic answer I would give is that besides being God's own work within us, prayer is our Spirit-empowered response to the active and effective presence of God in our lives and in our larger world. It presupposes and always presumes he is present and active within and around us and involves opening ourselves to that in a variety of ways. Thus, different forms of prayer look differently than others. For instance, in quiet prayer, I tend not to think about anything in particular; I simply sit quietly and open myself to God so that he might dwell within me and touch me in whatever ways he wills. When I pray with Scripture I read it slowly and allow it to speak to me in whatever way it can. I may also imagine myself in the scene, imagine Jesus has just told (or rather, is telling) me the parable at hand, and so forth. Another piece of all this is journaling: I journal about Scripture, and also about the events in my own life in ways which allow God's voice to be heard there. Journaling tends to accompany all of the prayer in my life.

With Divine Office I sing the psalms etc. and pour myself into them as best I can. With the Lord's Prayer, I might take a single petition each day and spend time with it or I might pray the entire prayer with space between each petition so that I am free to feel, think, imagine, etc whatever might be associated with that line. When traveling on a train, for instance, I look briefly at each person while praying the Jesus prayer (I finger some beads I wear on my wrist at such times). When I am ill, I might take a Taize hymn or other piece of music and listen to it while opening myself to God's presence as well as I can.

My prayer for others tends to be a prayer that God will be with them and support them in whatever way they most need. It seems to me to be as important that I hold them in my heart as it is to pray for anything specific. I know that the God who grounds my being and resides within my heart links me to the other person in a similar way so in some ways my prayer is an offer to support that person and to not leave them alone --- even though I may have no awareness of this nor may they. My own spontaneous prayers tend to be cries for assistance ("O God come to me assistance, O Lord make haste to help me!"),  cries of deep joy and gratitude, exclamations of amazement, praise, etc. 

Guess that's about it for a start. Please be assured of my prayers for your Sister-in-Law. Whatever happens she is not alone.