Rev. Kathi's Message
As much as I really like to write prayers, I struggle to maintain a regular prayer routine. So many things can get in the way of a daily discipline. How we pray, and when we pray, tells us what we believe about God and what we believe about each other – perhaps even more than what we say. So, as Christians, if we do not pray, what does this say about who we believe God to be? And does God matter to our world?
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to pray. Where do we start? What do we include? How should we pray?
Even the “professional” Christians can have a difficult time praying. I have been in a classroom of ministry students or a meeting with clergypersons where the question “does anyone want to pray?” is met with sideways glances and downward stares. In private, I have sat staring at my Bible and my notebook, waiting for inspiration.
Sometimes, I turn to the programs of other denominations like the Anglican or Lutheran churches. They offer daily prayers and readings, and often I find myself praying for people and things I might not have included and in a language that can be different than the prayers I might have written.
I pray for “the leaders of our nation, that they may act according to Your will.” Sometimes I pray that wincing, because so many political leaders have failed to do just that. It can feel more like the challenge of praying for my enemies.
I pray “for those in sickness, grief, persecution, bondage, fear, or loneliness.” These broad-ranging categories remind me to pray for those who are close to me – whose names I know – and for those I will never know but whose stories of pain or loss make the front pages. And I wonder: How many times have I prayed for the lonely? Who are the lonely today, and why are they lonely? If I have time, I practise silence to think of those persons specifically for whom I want to pray.
The prayers remind me of the grace “that precedes and follows” me, without any initiation on my part. Nothing is outside the love of God.
Sometimes I may drive, cook breakfast or sip coffee as I say my prayers. I realize this could be “cheating,” but if the Holy Spirit is everywhere, perhaps praying during the mundane reminds us that God is there, even when we wash dishes or commute to work.
The 20th-century agnostic philosopher Jacques Derrida said, “If I pray, when I pray, I pray all the time.” While Derrida was uncertain about God’s existence, I do like his idea of prayer. This understanding reminds us that prayer can be as simple as a breath of gratitude or an awareness of the Holy Spirit who surrounds us.
For me, it is hard to set aside time each day as dedicated to God. But developing the ritual of praying every day allows me to pray even when I can only mouth the words while my heart doubts. It enables me to pray when I am tired and weary. And it starts me off in acknowledgement that God is present and active, though I may feel otherwise.
When I pray, I am reminded of the great cloud of witnesses, who have practised ritualized prayer for millennia, and who are praying now. In this I find comfort; in this I find hope.