Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Five ~ prayer of silence (or not)

"The inspiration you seek is already within you.  Be silent and listen."

Jan @ RevGalBlogPals provides our questions for this week's Friday Five:
"At the beginning of this past week, I attended a conference on contemplative prayer entitled 'Turning to the Mystics' at the 2013 Summer Institute at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. The speakers were James Finley, author and former novice of Thomas Merton; Mirabai Starr, author, translator, and speaker; and Father Ronald Rolheiser, author and president of OST [the Oblate School of Theology].  We were encouraged to regularly sit in quiet to come to realize our union with the Divine, who continually loves us into being.  So for this Friday Five, let us share about our prayer practices, whether silent or not."
1.  How do you pray?
Once upon a time, I prayed like a child:  "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep" or "God is great, God is good, and we thank him for this food."  Now I am more likely to sit in mindfulness, trying to be aware of what's around me, sometimes thinking about a specific person or conundrum, sometimes not.
2.  How has your idea of prayer changed over time?
In my teens, I was MYF president (that was Methodist Youth Fellowship).  It was my responsibility to lead the closing ritual each week.  It was the 1950s, and my mother had a copy of the newly published Revised Standard Version of the Bible.  I was impressed by the revised wording.  Some grumbled when I changed the words of Numbers 6:24-26 that we had always said from "The Lord bless thee and keep thee" to "The Lord bless you and keep you," but it made sense to use regular words.  It felt like talking to God when we used normal words, rather than old-fashioned, holy-sounding words.  I like the wording (above) that I found last night, which changes "and give thee peace" to "and give you shalom."  Okay, so shalom is a foreign word (Hebrew), but it's a word most Christians have heard in church, and the word enlivens this blessing for me.  I have always been a word person, and shalom is a vivid word meaning hello, goodbye, and peace.  It's almost like saying, "Go in peace."
3.  Do you ever sit in silent prayer?  How does it go?
I first practiced long silences for group prayer in the 1980s when a couple of other pastors would meet weekly in my church office.  I was surprised that a half hour or even an hour could pass in stillness and quiet without seeming long at all.
4.  Do you have any difficulties and/or pleasures in prayer?
I used to have a poster, back in the 1970s, that said someething like "your whole life can be a prayer, if only you make it so."  Doesn't that sound cool?
5.  What is the best advice that helped you with prayer?
I have passed along what I learned about why we pray, so let me tell you a story.  A former parishioner recently left a comment about prayer on one of my other blogs:
"What I do not understand is those people who live their lives by God will end up praying for things that never happen."
I responded:  "I guess this isn't a problem for me because I don't see prayer as a transaction where, if I'm good enough, God will do whatever I request.  (Also, we parents don't do everything our children want us to do, right?)  I see prayer more as a meditation where I pay attention to what's going on around me, trying to discern the proper way for me to act, rather than telling God what to do for me."
Bonus:  Share something about prayer or an example of a prayer you like.
I like the symbolism of this pillow, resting one's head on the prayer between "Dear God" and "Amen" while sleeping.


Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

Luv the pillow!
and the shalom quote - its meaning is so much more than peace.. fullness and completion in every area of life.
Intend on pinning that - TY!
blessings in prayer =)

Elaine (aka...Purple) said...

Love the prayer pillow.

Many of those I serve view prayer as a debit card machine...insert card...request...receive payment.

Anonymous said...

I love the words from the poster from the 70's. Thanks.

Jan said...

I've never seen a prayer pillow before and think that's wonderful. It is possible our whole lives are prayer, but do I need to be aware of that??

Robin said...

It's so difficult to steer folks away from the concept of prayer as transaction.