Do I pray, Tony Jones wants to know. He asks the question as part of research he’s doing for his next book.
I couldn’t make a selection on his blog survey. It only gave the option of yes, or no. I wanted to answer ‘maybe’ but there was no option for that. I might answer ‘no’, but not without a ….’but’…’because’…..
I went back to it several times, wanting to be helpful and wanting to participate. I still can’t answer the question. Maybe because the definition of prayer that has been drilled into me all my life doesn’t fit my ‘communication’ with God anymore or maybe because what I’ve been taught is true and so I don’t actually pray. I feel like the answer to the question is ‘no’, I don’t pray.
The closest practice I have to prayer now is maybe more akin to meditation…but I don’t think those serious about meditation would concur.
I tend to quiet myself down, quiet the voices in my mind, try to detach from the details of my life and open my heart to love (I’m hoping it’s open to Love). It’s more listening than talking, but not listening for words. It’s pushing back the debris and noise of my life connecting with my own essential spirit and trying to align it with a higher, more loving, more mystical, more joyful, lighter, deeper, Most Beautiful Spirit.
If I’m troubled about something or asked to pray for someone else who is troubled I sit before God, Most Beautiful Spirit, and hold the situation, the feelings, the person, open. I try to hold it open with faith and sense the beauty and peace and comfort available. I try to see God in the situation. Sometimes I say words. If I do they’re very few. “Bring hope.” “Bring comfort.” “Let them feel your love.” “Lord have mercy.”
If the trouble is my own situation, or one that closely affects me, I sometimes tumble out a bunch of words. It feels like panic. It doesn’t feel like faith. It feels like digression. So I try again to be quiet, to sense God, to feel Love, to hold onto faith for goodness to prevail and if it doesn’t, for Comfort to come in the midst of grief.
Praying words in personal prayers feels manipulative to me these days. I lack so much confidence in my ability to know what would be good (“God help me get that job” etc) that any words I say to that effect ring hollow. It also feels more like incantation to believe that my words could steer events. I haven’t been able to reconcile praying for outcomes. I would if I felt incredibly compelled to do that. I’d say that’s happened a handful of times – at most.
Joining in corporate prayer is very intimate (it used to be we prayed with anyone and everyone). I have a very hard time in evangelical settings being open to praying with people. That’s when I most feel like my activities of communion with God are definitely not prayers at all, because what they are doing, I no longer do.
I still love corporate blessings. When someone is praying a benediction on a gathering I can wholeheartedly close my eyes, open my heart and soak it all in. It feels holy. Like a big warm blanket of holiness and goodness, a blessing gives me the sense that everything is going to be okay, that I’m loved and that my life is a sacred gift. That’s right, I get all that from one of the saints/sinners standing with arms raised saying, “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you…etc” or any other such blessing.
So Tony….do I pray?