Prayer – and praying – has been much on my mind of late. Perhaps it is because of the feeling of uneasiness and discord that seems to be permeating our society and nation; the constant presence of uncertainty that surrounds being a caregiver for someone I love; or simply the happening of “life” with all its complexities and daily ups and downs, but prayer has been a constant companion of mine for some time now.
Morning Prayer has been part of my daily morning routine for many, many years now. However, at present, I find that my most serious and most intimate prayers have occurred in the darkness of the night watches, when the shadows of anxiety and unease rear their heads the most. It is at these times that the serene words of Compline (“The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end”) or the repetitiveness of the Angelus Prayer (“Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus…), waft through my head, calming my heart of its anxieties, uneasiness, and uncertainties.
Prayer has long been a tool that I have utilized to help ease my anxieties which, if left untended, can run their due course from mere anxiety to sheer panic attack. Why prayer? Well, I believe it is because through prayer I no longer feel alone in the darkness – no longer alone on this path of uneasiness – no longer alone trying to navigate the complexities of life.
Through prayer I am connected to something greater than just me – greater than even my family or friends. I feel connected to the one true and living God – God who, as the psalmist says, “neither slumbers nor sleeps,” who “preserves us from all evil” and “keeps us safe”, the God who “is our shade at our right hand”, who “watches our going out and coming in forevermore.” Psalm 121.
The late Henri Nouwen in his book, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, sums it up best for me. There he writes, “When we pray, we enter into the presence of God whose name is God-with-us. To pray is to listen attentively to the One who addresses us here and now. When we dare to trust that we are never alone but that God is always with us, always cares for us, and always speaks to us, then we can gradually detach ourselves from the voices that make us guilty or anxious and thus allow ourselves to dwell in the present moment.”
Through prayer I am reminded that I am never truly alone, but that God is with me at all times - day or night – in times of surety and uncertainty, of calmness or chaos – God is there.
Through prayer, we not only develop our relationship with the Divine – but we further our relationship with the Holy Spirit, being the conduit for the Spirit to move in and through each of us – connecting us with each other, with God, and with the world.
Feeling alone, anxious, disconnected? Give prayer a try. If you don’t know where to begin, try looking at our own Book of Common Prayer.
The Book of Common Prayer is full of prayers for every occasion of life – births, celebrations, illness, death. One simply has to open it up to discover its riches, something I commend you do try. Open our Prayer Book. Explore its beauty, its spirituality, its rule of living. Check out the prayers found in its pages, and pray them. Let them become part of you – your very being. Let them be a conduit through which you may find that connection with each other, with our community/society/nation/world, and most importantly, with our God. Let them help be your pathway to peace - that peace that passes all understanding – for that is what will happen through prayer.