One humid summer morning when I was 10 years old, I ignored my mother’s suggestion to wear a light shirt beneath my pretty new sweater, embroidered with colorful pom-pom flowers on long green stems.
After arriving at Sunday School, the teacher pressed me to hang the sweater on my chair. My skinny, nude frame beneath the fiber blend garment broke out into beads of sweat. The Southern Baptist illustration of Jesus on the wall looked down upon me like a stern Barry Gibb. I mouthed a silent prayer, “Ohhh please, Lord ... don’t let them take my sweater.” Stubbornly, I made it through an hour of Bible scripture broiling in my own sauces, practically melting the crayons as I colored images of the cross, lost sheep and disciples.
Thus began a long run of selfish, urgent, desperate prayers continuing into adulthood. So often, it’s not until the perfect storm of fear, guilt and helplessness rises up like bile that folks break the glass and go for the prayer alarm. But I now prefer it to be more of a routine.
Prayer – why and how – has been on my mind.
I knew something was up when I watched “Eat Pray Love” three times in one week – although, a mantra and I will never have Julia Robert’s budget for introspection.
In Anne Lamott’s “Help Thanks Wow,” the author peels back the origins and rationale of prayer like a holy onion, surmising that prayer can be “stillness, motion and energy, all at the same time.”
Ah, getting closer.
In discovering meditative prayer and praise at the weekly Taize services at Advent Episcopal, I loved the chants, candlelight and literary sampler of poetry, scripture, philosophy and – the zinger – 10 minutes of meditation.
Be still and know that I am God ... I was busted. I can’t be still.
During that time, I prayed mostly that my brain would stop processing the week’s anxieties. I actually compose articles during Taize. That’s not good. I’ll pray about it.
I recently joined the prayer writing team at Advent, and Fr. Tim Mitchell, probably never having chatted with any of my former editors, boldly asked me to compose “Prayers of the People” for Sunday Eucharist.
It is clear that I do not talk or write like I pray, and upon hearing my prayers being read by the liturgist on those Sundays, my hands grasped the pew in front of me, melting layers of recently applied Murphy’s Oil Soap.
When His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited in May, the most profound observation for me was not relegated to the monk’s wisdom but to the gathering of faith leaders and followers that bound the city together in a spiritual stronghold of Christian, Baha’i, Islam, Judaism, Hindu and Sikh.
The prayers that opened the Festival of Faiths were beautiful and moving. The banner proclaiming “One Light, Many Lamps” appealed to my soul. Hearing “The same God hears our prayers” validated my spiritual walk.
My prayer is that the experience of that week in Louisville does not fade too soon. Though pettiness, hesitancy and less compassionate thoughts may seep in, my hope is that more prayers will make their way out.
Namaste. God Bless. Rock on.