Saturday night I had dinner with two of my best friends in Chicago, Chris and Christina, and at one point the conversation turned to who, living and dead, you would want to end up sitting next to in a diner for a conversation. One of my choices was St. Paul, whose ideas to this day shape what I believe in. The next day, coincidentally, I heard a reading in church from Ephesians in which Paul describes how every one of us has a different role to play in God’s plan. I continually struggle with my attempts to serve God as a lay person. My writing, and the ideas I share in it, are one of my primary ways (Though may the Lord strike me down if I ever get overtly preachy!), but lately I have been looking for other things to do, and as this search begins, I am thinking about something I have done every night since middle school: pray.
Prayer is such a simple thing and yet it evolves so much over time. I began praying out of a sense of duty after my confirmation in the Roman Catholic Church, and I stuck to that duty throughout my years in high school when I went through a crisis of belief, and in that time I asked for so much for myself, from the banality of good weather to more material desires. Coming out on the other side of that crisis, I prayed, and still pray, out of a thirst for a relationship with God, and I have learned that there are things I now express which quench that thirst even more.
Now, every night, even on nights when I may have indulged in the pleasures of this world too excessively, and every Sunday morning in the stillness before services, there is much I pray for.
Neale Donald Walsch once described prayer as “a statement of gratitude for what is so.” I express my thanks for having a roof, a bed, food, and clothing, and for having whatever fuel in me spurs the writing I feel called to do; in other words, for having my needs met. The wants can take care of themselves.
I ask God to bless people I know who are undergoing tumultuous times. Right now, I pray much for my friends who are searching for work, and who are battling depression and injury. I also ask blessings for people undergoing the throngs of joy: my friends who are getting married, having children, and experiencing the other milestones that come with our maturity.
I ask for some things I have come to adopt as principles after reading the Bible. For a few seconds, I forget the immediate world and think of the tumult of the world around me, and ask for comfort for the suffering and those afflicted by evil, and mercy for those who are undergoing trials and agonies…especially those who think they do not deserve mercy or any sign of favor. Because there are more of us than you think.
And in thinking about writing this post, I realize there are things that I need to pray for more. During the past year’s turmoil in the United States, I always made a point to pray for those killed unjustly or tragically, but I have not prayed as much for people suffering in ways up to death. In watching the growing storm and pushback against the demand for equality, especially full equality for women, I want my greatest thoughts to match what deeds I can do. I am going to discipline myself to pray for people who are giving much more than I am right now, and to imitate their example.
I write this post because on social media right now, and in other aspects of my life, there is much to make one feel depressed or apathetic. Prayer, for me, is one of the greatest ways I combat such negativity. Many people I dearly love are not religious, but I think the mere act of thinking of what we have to be grateful for, and whose existences we want to carry on as they are or hope will be better than they are, be it through meditation, vibes, karma, or simply good will…any concept that makes personal sense to you…is in itself enough to make the world brighter.
The next few weeks on here I am going to get serious, get silly, get analytical to the point of boredom perhaps. Taking a little time to be heartfelt is important for me.
One final word…I pray for the country I love, but these days I think I have to be careful how I do so. And while I would love for people to find their own Episcopal Church, their own connection to a higher power that makes sense to them, I NEVER pray for people to join my church or find a spiritual core for the sake of those objectives, for that is far outside the bounds of true faith. It is a threshold I would never cross. Why that’s important will be part of my next discussion here…