At my home church we are starting a fall sermon series on prayer. To kick things off, one of our pastors sent out a request for submission—asking the questions:
- What does “prayer” mean for you?
- Why do you pray?
- How do you pray?
- What difference does praying make in your life?
Often when these kinds of requests come, I think, ‘I should do that’ then go on to the next thing in my inbox. More often than not I forget the whole thing until it’s too late anyway, and then feel a little sad/grumpy/annoyed about my procrastination. But when I read Peter’s questions an answer started pouring out of me almost before I could hit the reply button. Here is what I wrote:
I pray because I love hanging out with God, and I love my life more—all of it—when I hang out with God regularly. I pray because it heals me, strengthens me, helps me to be—every day—a little more the person God dreams me to be.
Mostly I pray by simply remembering and noticing God. We hang out. Any time, any place, but especially in that numinous space between waking and sleeping.
As I head to sleep in the evening, God tucks me in—tucks the blankets in around me and my husband, and then God and I look out over the landscape of my blessings—my love, my daughters, my friends and family, all the mentors and healers who have helped me on my journey, all the many children of my heart, all the animals who make their furry ways into my life. I sit with God, wrapped up in that Love and I feel more than say the words, “I love you so much, thank you thank you thank you.”
In the morning as I am waking, often the first thing that comes to me is (again) all the many, many blessings and I just sit with God in gratitude. Sometimes at night I ask for forgiveness, or for wisdom in a difficult place. Sometimes at night I ask for strength or courage or clarity to face the coming day. But mostly, mostly, I just make myself at home in God, at home in God’s love—I just let myself be filled up with God’s love and grace and healing power.
I also have special ways of praying for others. I have always used lots of visualization. For a long time, one child of my heart struggled with an eating disorder, and every day I would hold her in God, seeing God breastfeeding her, giving her the nurturing she needed, food for the journey. Recently, I have used the Praying in Color book and begun “doodling” my prayers to God—it is a special way of praying for those who have requested prayers, and I find it a good addition to my more informal ways of praying.
What difference does prayer make in my life? When I pray, in some mysterious way God works in me and through me. I pray for courage, and God takes whatever is there, inside of me, and strengthens it. I pray to be more loving and God takes my loving heart and grows it, adds to it. In prayer I surrender and I say to God with my whole heart, “Whatever you can do with me God, I’m in.” and again and again, God makes more of me than I could ever have made of myself.
Peter made a sermon from the answers he received to his query. If you want to hear the sermon that Peter made by weaving a chorus of answers together, you can find it here. If you want to read an archived sermon of mine on prayer (preached to Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church in July 2009) you can read that here.
So what about you, dear readers—what does prayer mean to you? how and why do you pray? what difference does it make in your life? I would love to hear from you.