Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prayer

As I mentioned in a recent post, at St. Paul's during Lent we have weekly communion services. This year we are focusing on prayer. Things aren't all planned out yet (hey, I still have 6 hours til the first session!!), but we'll be looking at prayer from different ways, exploring different prayers and types of prayer, looking at the Lord's Prayer, experimenting with Lectio Divina, etc.

My own 'prayer life' has gone through many incarnations. When I was little, and having a spiritual crisis in fourth grade (no joke), my mother asked me if I was praying everyday. "No!" So she told me to pray every night and that I should do that by telling God about my day. I took her quite literally, and being an obedient child, I did exactly what she said. I would first pray the "God bless"es, systematically going through each family member and each extended family member, including all two dozen or so cousins and occasionally even select second cousins. And then I would tell God about my day, in nauseating detail: "Dear God, today I went to school and first we studied math and then we had a spelling test and then we had lunch and then..." If I made it through all of this, I would end with the Lord's Prayer, but more often than not, I fell asleep somewhere through my recitation of events. Actually though, this, along with the daily Bible reading my mom suggested, really helped me through that time and comforted me.

As I got older, I experimented with different ways of praying, never quite returning to that childhood pattern. Now I like to think of my prayer life as more intertwined with everything I do. Isn't conversation with God supposed to be part of all we do? But, still, I have to admit that I'm more likely to do the talking and less likely to do the listening. Intertwining prayer with life only works if there is a space in there to hear as well. I'm not so good at emptying out all the bustling noises of my head to make space for anything other than myself to talk back to me. (I'm reminded of this excellent post by my brother about his meditation experiences...)

Having a disciplined, set-aside, formatted prayer time frankly seems tedious to me sometimes. But I guess that is part of the reality of discipline. If it was something we would do outside of a disciplined routine, then we wouldn't need the discipline of it. But like all disciplines, they are there to shape us even when we don't really want to be shaped.

Praying together is a different matter. I hate reading unison prayers if I feel like I (or we) don't really mean all the words we are saying. And yet, I find that praying together is important, and that we have corporate things to share with God as well as individual. I can think of some specific times when corporate prayer was very meaningful, but I find it hard to consistently avoid feeling like we're just going through the motions.

Do you have a favorite way of praying? Do you find (and how do you find) corporate prayer to be meaningful? Do you have a disciplined way to pray?
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