Saturday, March 17, 2007

Prayer

While prayer has been politicized these days, my post is not intended to appeal to those who voted for red or blue state candidates. I am Jewish but my story is about what I learned when I read a book on praying written by a family friend, who's a gay Episcopal minister. So I guess I will probably offend everyone, other than those of you who are open-minded and can celebrate each other differences. Here goes.

A number of years ago when I was very sick, I went to see the Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd, who is the author of the best-selling book Are You Running With Me Jesus? At the time I wasn't finding answers to the "Why Me?" question within my own religion and I was so angry that I couldn't pray anymore. All these years later, I don't remember what Malcolm and I discussed but I do remember the impact of his book.

In the introduction, he writes: "The impulse to write the book sprang from my increasing inability to pray. I had always assumed that prayer was necessarily verbal. I forced myself to use the archaic language of liturgical prayer, battling my growing disillusionment and boredom. Wasn't God supposed to be up there? When this neat system collapsed for me, I virtually stopped praying, except for using the Lord's Prayer.

"In the spring of 1964 a group of Roman Catholic laity and clergy invited me to visit Israel and Rome with them. As one point in the trip we visited the island of Cyrus; afterward we proceeded by ship to Haifa... One afternoon everybody was taking a nap, despite the sounds of distant gunfire being exchanged by Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

"I lay on my cot, trying to pray. Then I picked up a ballpoint pen and a notebook, 'It's morning, Jesus,' I wrote, and 'here's that light and sound all over again.' The time of day was wrong, but I wasn't being literalistic. ... That was the first entry in Are You Running with Me Jesus? I had no idea of writing a book at all. I was grappling with prayer and medication, trying to get started in a new way."

Reverend Boyd's book has been a huge success, selling over a million copies. I highly recommend it for Christians and non-Christians alike. What particularly struck me were the following passages:

"... I came to learn that real prayer or meditation is not so much talking to God as just sharing God's presence, generally in the most ordinary of situations... Prayer is so much more than most people give it credit for. Beyond words, it can be voting, making love, just standing there, being angry, being quiet, cooking spaghetti sauce, marching in a peace demonstration, listening, lying on a sick bed, dancing, swimming, getting married, starting a new job, walking on a crowded street. Prayer can be filled with color and fun, vitality and pain, hopelessness and starting over again. I like to look out at life as I see it, and pray about it."

As I read Malcolm's book over and over, I began writing my own prayers to God. After awhile I stopped being angry with Him for "making me ill" and began a reconciliation. While it took a few more years for me to begin healing, now I feel like every day of wellness is a miracle and that prayer is an important part of the process.

1 comment:

marja said...

Hi Susan, Thank you for visiting my blog. I was particularly drawn to this post and this quote from Boyd's book:

"... I came to learn that real prayer or meditation is not so much talking to God as just sharing God's presence, generally in the most ordinary of situations... Prayer is so much more than most people give it credit for."

Although I have a strong faith, I too have a great deal of trouble praying. It would be a relief to know that just being in God's presence could be considered prayer , because I do often feel there.