intention to pray

Most mornings my alarm clock goes off at 4:40 am so I can pray and meditate before working out, before breakfast and school departures, before heading off to office hours either at the Glencoe Roast or the church.  I’ve learned that prayer is critical to my day, and I learned it the hard way.  I observed that on the days I didn’t take the time to pray and meditate, I simply wasn’t as grounded and centered and awake to my life as I am when I do take that time.

I can remember my first meditation class.  They required 20 minutes of meditation every day, in addition to the two hour class each week. I had no idea how I would fit that into my life as a single working mom without time and money just waiting to be spent.  But it was for six weeks, so I did it. And I found that I wanted more and committed to the next period of time and the next, until 30-45 minutes a day was the norm.  I noticed that when I didn’t set aside that time, I was the one who suffered.

At the same time, I am more clear than ever that prayer doesn’t happen only in large chunks of time.  Prayer is really about investing in and nurturing a relationship with the ‘is-ness’ of life, as author Marcus Borg reminds us, that “sacred reality, a ‘more,’ all around us, wondrous and glorious.”  Our inherited tradition found wisdom in praying throughout the day. In the Book of Common Prayer you can find morning prayer, noonday prayer, evening prayer, and compline: liturgies used by many to foster an openness to this greater is-ness.  Some find still other creative ways to connect, like the story of someone who used a cough drop to connect them to this larger awareness—for as long as the lozenge lasted!

I know that many people feel quite at a loss regarding the whole question of prayer, and yet feel uncomfortable admitting that. If you are one of those folks, I hope you will take the risk of speaking with someone or using one of many wonderful resources to help develop the muscle of prayer in your life.  One of them, a book by Anne Lamott, entitled Help, Thanks, Wow, is being read in the “one book, one diocese” program throughout Lent by the bishop and many in the diocese starting Ash Wednesday.  We will also be posting additional resources on the website and our facebook page to support the community in its life of prayer.

During this coming week’s parish retreat on Sunday, several parishioners will share their own practices, their own ways of nurturing their relationship with the holy.  No two will be alike.  Indeed, there as many possibilities as there are excuses!  It is not lost on me that even I, as a priest in parish ministry, feel the need to get up so early to ‘fit prayer into’ my day.   Of all people I have ‘permission’ to pray during my workday, and yet it is so easy to let my day get crowded out by other important demands on my time and energy.

So, for the next five weeks, I’m going to experiment. I am going to set aside half an hour during the workday on Tuesday to pray in the chapel from 10-10:30.   I invite anyone who is interested in sharing contemplative prayer to join me, either in person or not, either at that time of day or at a time that works for them.  It’s important to remember that all of us share in prayer as we worship together and in the various forms that work for us.  However perhaps you, along with the several parishioners who have already expressed interest in a more intentional commitment to prayer, are interested in joining this adventure we’re calling a circle of prayer.  Please let me know if you would like to commit to a period of journeying together.

Finally, if you’re interested in getting up at 4:40 am, you’re more than welcome to do so, but even if you aren’t, I hope you don’t let that stop you from nurturing your relationship with that “sacred reality, a ‘more,’ all around us, wondrous and glorious.”  To say it’s worth it doesn’t even come close.