October 26, 2016
"God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars."
—attributed to Martin Luther
I have begun to pray recently. This may sound odd coming from a minister, but as much as I adore leading prayer in front of a congregation, on the state capitol steps, or at a patient’s bedside, I’ve always held a certain amount of shame that prayer isn't central to my spiritual practice. Perhaps shame isn’t the word; it might be more like envy: I want to be good at it.
I’m under no theological pressure to keep up a prayer life. I don’t believe that a God will smite me if I don’t engage in regular conversation. In fact, I’m comfortably perched on the fence about God (that is, if by “God” we’re talking about a noun). I lose interest the minute that God is spoken of as an enormous celestial ATM who doles out rewards to some, and punishment to the kids who are too busy to call home every once in a while. Yet I appreciate the word God for the sake of common vocabulary. It’s a good universal shorthand to describe the little moments in our daily life that smack us into paying attention: “Hey! This, right here — this moment, joined with all other such tiny moments — is why you’re alive. This is Holy. Here it is.”
I love the word prayer over meditation because often the latter is used to describe an emptying of one’s mind... and I’m looking to deliberately fill mine up. In understanding what I’m doing as prayer, I place myself in the company of souls throughout the millennia who also hoped, cried, were sickened with worry, loved desperately, and felt impossible levels of joy. I join those who have reached into their chests, yanked out their hearts, and offered them to this world.
When I try to do it, my mind drifts. But I sit in my hammock under a big old oak and notice that when I look up from my day and reach right in, my heart is filled so much God.
May I be open to experience the holy all around me and within me. May I embrace the holy in others and know that I, too, am part of it all. Amen.