Each morning, usually before the sunrise is complete, I try to set aside some quite time to focus my mind on prayer. Lately, it is becoming more and more difficult for me to get a firm grasp on not just who or what needs prayer, but how to even begin to verbalize it. How can I string together words that will be lifted up and not merely fall from my lip?
Almost each morning, I am aware that the news of the day just past was filled with conflict and war — the turmoil in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, the eastern border towns of Ukraine, the seemingly never ending struggles in Afghanistan, and those are only a fraction of what’s happening in our world. Or perhaps I should pray for peace in my own country and city, where hatred or various kinds has led to racial conflicts, increases in hostile acts against ethnics and religious groups, or the rise in aggressive acts against LGBTQ person. The list is long and so complex that I cannot wrap my head around it all, much less try to fit it into a prayer.
Where do I begin my prayers? Do I say simply, “Grant us peace?” There is no comfort for me in that kind of blanket use of words. Do I pray for some universal change of heart for a deeply troubled world as if an overnight transformation might miraculously occur? I am searching for answers and not finding many.
The same difficulties filter down to prayers for individuals. How do I honestly and compassionately pray for a nephew who is in a very dark place with mental illness and had to be committed for treatment against his will? There is no sense of comfort when I can only fumble for a few words such as, “Oh, God, please help Eric.” The truth is, my nephew’s illness flows over onto my sister and her life, to his brother and that family, and to all our family as a whole. How do I pray for all of that complexity?
All of my life, as a minister and as a common everyday person, prayer has been the cloak of empathetic caring and personal healing. There is such a sense of joy and giving when I spend those minutes, however long they are, in communion with the almighty Listening Ear. There would never be a time when I would cease doing it. But to be honest, I have struggled greatly recently, and I haven’t found a solution that works for me. So the reality for me today is that I spend most of my prayer time with the single request, ‘show me how to pray.’ Now, I just wait for an answer. And as I wait, I find solace in these words I believe about a loving God: “Two ears, no waiting.”
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