Teach me how to pray
“I do nothing, I give you nothing
Yet you hold me
Minute by minute
Prayer is a mysterious, miraculous and sometimes frustrating effort. Not only is the receiver unseen, but we never really know if the pleadings of our heart are heard, and if and how they are answered. I am a novitiate in the art of praying. Sometimes my prayers feel surface-deep—worse, rote. In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Claudius’s confession resonates: “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never heaven go.” I try to pray with conviction, but often my words are clumsy, inelegant, self-conscious. When life is going well, I can easily fall out of the practice of praying. I am guilty of believing in God, but not including God in my daily life.
It was easier for me to pray as an innocent child. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep” was all that needed to be said before floating off into my dreams, peaceful and confident God and His court of angels were watching over me. Could this be why Paul lamented in 1 Corinthians, “When I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I set aside childish ways.”
Sadly growing up ends easy trust. But that is what we are required to grasp again as adults. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never know and enter the kingdom of heaven.” In the Corona days I am listening to my children’s prayers. My youngest has no doubt that God will make things right. He is, of course, completely in spiritual sync—-God’s love is never in doubt so why should he fear?
The most honest prayer I know is, “Dear God, I believe, help my unbelief.” Trusting God regardless of life’s circumstances is plain hard. Vulnerability and speaking our raw truths is the first lesson on how to pray. During Corona, our prayers right now are exhaustive litanies of concerns for family, friends, church, work—-our suffering world. Just as important is a focus on thankfulness for God holding us, minute by minute, from falling into a pit of fear. Praying for personal courage and the physical and spiritual strength to not only survive, but thrive in the uncertainty falls on welcome ears. Remember, God knows what you need before you even ask Him. Prayer is not complete without a confession of our deep hopes; all the things we look forward to when we surface from this valley. God promises that this too shall pass and the joy will return in the morning.
There is a dramatic scene in the Gospel of Luke where the disciples, very anxious about the future, ask Jesus how to pray. This is a beautiful moment of love as Jesus frees them (and all of us) with the gift of The Lord’s Prayer. It becomes a simple blueprint for true security.
Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
In the face of Corona, let us respond in faith daily reciting Our Lord’s Prayer. It is blessing me with peace in the eeriness of Corona.. Reminiscent of the childhood game of Hot Potato, I envision passing off all my “hot” potato worries to God, confident in the deep of me that there is no true failure in God’s plan, ever. As Julian of Norwich, the 15th century Christian mystic confessed in faith, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Madeleine L’Engle said: “think of yourself as a very small car turning into a gas station to be filled with faith.” The Lord’s Prayer will reassure, and keep you moving down the road. Something good is on the horizon. It is the promise. Be thankful and believe.