P is for Prayer.
â€śHands together, eyes closed.â€ť
I wonder how many of us were taught to pray with those words? Certainly, I still find myself using them with the children at school. They are good words. They remind us that a time of prayer is when we try consciously to focus on God and not on other things. But they are far from the only words about prayer. Talk about prayer should begin with talk about God.
The Church proclaims God is Trinity. By this we are claiming that at the heart of the Creator of the Universe is a loving relationship. Godâ€™s very being is made up of the dynamic love which flows between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Christian prayer, that is prayer through Christ made possible by Christ, is the way in which we become part of the active love of the Trinity. In prayer we become caught up into the loving relationship which flows within the Trinity. Prayer is the way we sustain our relationship to God and are included in the relationship that is God.
There are many different ways to pray - as many ways as there are people on the planet. But each type of prayer is involved in this task of including us, and all creation, in the dynamic love which is at the heart of God.
In prayers of petition (for ourselves) we commit to God all aspects our lives, the important and unimportant, the difficult and easy. In prayers of intercession (for others), we share the love we receive from God to include others. Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray for their daily needs: he taught â€śgive us this day our daily breadâ€ť. Of course, God knows that we need food. We donâ€™t change Godâ€™s mind when we pray for things. Rather, to understand intercession we need to remember that God has chosen to work in cooperation with us in his world. Intercessory prayer is one way in which we choose to co-operate with God. Our prayers of asking are a way we become a vehicle of Godâ€™s grace for ourselves and others.
Our prayers can be full of thanksgiving. All things come from God and we can never sufficiently give thanks for all his many gifts, in creation and in the redemption won for us by his Son.
Thanksgiving can often lead to praise and adoration. We can praise God for what he has given us, like prayers of thanksgiving, but we can also praise and bless God because of what he is. We worship and adore God for his wonderful nature calls that response out of us.
Asour prayer life is a way of sustaining our relationship toGodso it should include time for reflection and confession. All of us commit sins that hinder and weaken that relationship to God and other people. Confession is about the loving restoration of those relationships and the bringing of reconciliation between people and God.
In the prayer of meditation and contemplation we can use some object through which we hope to delve deeper into the mystery of God. For example, we can meditate on scripture or with an icon. We can make use of imagination or we employ our reasoning intellect. We can repeat the words of a mantra to still our hearts. Or we may sit in stillness and silence, awaiting Godâ€™s gentle call.
We can pray sitting down, standing up, or walking along. We can use words or silence, poetry or prose. We can pray together or on our own. As I wrote earlier, there are countless ways to pray. But not all ways are for everyone. We must learn how we can pray and so follow the famous advice â€śPray as you can, not as you canâ€™t.â€ť But the most important thing is to do it. Not to read about it (or even to write about it), but to do it.
Prayer is a petition. It is thanksgiving. It is praise and adoration. It is confession. It is meditation and contemplation. We can use our hearts, our minds or bodies.
It is both song and silence.
Prayer is as insubstantial as a gentle breeze; it is as powerful as a mighty hurricane. It is more glorious than the dawning Sun. It is more frightening than blackest night. It is the rain that drenches the freshly ploughed furrows. It is the heat beating down on the sand of the desert. It can bring calm and peace. It can arise from anxiety and despair. It is breath. It is life. It is death.
It is relationship.
Prayer is love.
Albrecht DĂĽrer (1471â€“1528)
(study for an Apostle figure of the "Heller" altar)
Date circa 1508