As I am preparing to pray through and blog about praying through the Psalms I am reflecting on the nature of prayer and the way that our lives and prayers intertwine.
Perhaps as children we grew up with a concept of praying or even prayed together with our parents on a regular basis. Many of these first prayers were by rote. We imitated what we heard “the grown-ups” say. Later we learned to use our own words but often these prayers were very selfish.? “Dear Jesus, help me pass this test.” or even “Dear Jesus, let me pass this test that I haven’t studied for (i.e. give me a personal miracle) and I’ll study next time.”
Perhaps then as we continued to grow and develop we began to pray for others. Hopefully somewhere along the lines prayer became part of who we were, our emotions engaged with it and we had a small taste of awe.
I certainly went through all of those stages, but somewhere along the way something happened and I began to see that prayer was more than words, yet not solely an emotional connection. Prayer became an important part of my day and life not just in regular time devoted to prayer, but in praying as I breathed. I began to see that prayer was a spiritual discipline and privilege like no other and that through prayer change and growth could and would take place beyond what I had asked for or even dared to dream.
The first point in which I really remember seeing this was at New Year’s of 2005 . I had been through a period of several years of walking away from any spiritual practice and had come to a point where I was attending church regularly and even praying in private but my prayers did not seem to be getting very far.? At the time I had a housemate who was very interested in Wicca and pagan spirituality and I had read several of her books on the subject as I attempted to work out what a good spiritual practice was.
One thing that struck me in those books was the idea that one of the effects of praying must be personal change – you might never get the thing that you were praying for but the act of praying for it might well change you until you no longer desired that thing.
I decided that I was going to pray that the people in my life would be the people who were supposed to be in my life.? At the time I was working in a school for troubled boys and had a couple of? other difficult relationships, but I believed that God would only put the people in my life that He intended to have there if I would pray that.? At first I didn’t see much change, I still was around the same people and I still had the same issues with some of them. Then I started to see them in a different light. Slowly I started to learn that it was OK not to understand how to help someone, or be helped by them, I started to be able to rest that the people I interacted with were the ones I was supposed to interact with.? Prayer did in fact change my life. It changed me.
In many ways that is why I want to pray the Psalms. As I have read them again and again in almost five years of using the Daily Office Lectionary from the BCP, I have seen new and different things every time I read through the cycle.? Now I want to internalize and externalize those things in order to allow them to be more than just words to me.