Your Life Is Your Prayer
I have to admit I am more gypsy than monk when it comes to the practice of prayer. I have been known to kneel, light a candle, anoint with holy water, read the psalms, finger the rosary, recite the Lord’s Prayer, walk in the woods in silence, fall asleep mid-phrase, or tearfully cry out the words, Help me. I have gone weeks forgetting to pray and then in other seasons found myself whispering prayers inside almost every breath. I have probably written several hundred prayers over the last five years for my community of faith. And yet, I still feel like a novitiate, a postulant-of-prayer in training. The act of prayer continues to humble, surprise, frustrate, and nourish me like no other facet of my life. For me, prayer is a tugging on the invisible thread that connects my soul to the Mysterious One that created and called it into being. It is less about the perfect words and more about the stretching of my heart. My prayer life reminds me of my junior tennis career. Certainly no prodigy, and yet no one ever doubted that I was the kid with the tenacious spirit and perseverant heart, despite the few trophies on the shelf.
I wish I could boast the ecstatic prayer life of the saints, like St. Theresa d’Avila. Remember, she was the saint for whom the Baroque sculptor, Bernini, captured in marble, the arrow of spiritual enlightenment and God’s love piercing her heart in ecstasy. Sadly, no arrows of ecstasy here. Just like those few tennis trophies, the rewards of my prayer life are more like little, divine embraces, or winks of grace, yet enough to inspire me to keep tugging on that invisible string. In recent years, I have discovered a new authenticity to my prayer life that has been liberating for my spirit. Who was I kidding? God already knew my thoughts, my true motives, my fears, my missteps, and my hopes. My real truth was like bold graffiti spray-painted across the inner walls of my soul for only God and me to see. My formal, polite prayers were fooling no one. It was time I revealed my most vulnerable, imperfect self, and experience a new intimacy with God, crucial for the nourishment of my soul.
I used to feel guilty about my lack of Benedictine discipline when it came to my prayer life until I redefined what prayer means in my life. What if the way I lived my life was actually my prayer? What if lighting a candle in a chapel, cooking a meal for a friend in need, whispering words of gratitude for my blessings in the school pick-up line, enjoying a belly laugh with my six year old, singing a poor rendition of Amazing Grace at bedtime to my son, kissing my two-year olds skinned knee, or standing still in a chapel of trees at Radnor Lake could be defined as prayer? Mother Theresa said, “Let’s not pray long drawn-out prayers, but let’s pray short ones full of love.” Saint Augustine said, “Prayer is nothing but Love.” What I have discovered in the daily chaos of four kids, a job, and a blog, as well as in the quiet moments of meditative prayer, is that when I am doing my best to love big, I connect with God! And that is prayer!
So, I carry on, a prayer-curious gypsy, reading the psalms when inspired, kissing rosy-cheeked children, kneeling in candlelit chapels, crafting prayers of healing, and trying my best to quiet my busy life long enough for God to whisper words of grace here and there to the intimate parts of my being. I am grateful there is no perfect prayer or pray-er in God’s eyes. Everyone can tug on that sacred thread and allow the curiosity, creativity, and yearning of their soul to be lead into a much holier state of being. A state where your life actually begins to look like one beautifully lived prayer!
Live in Hope,