“You look ridiculous if you dance. You look ridiculous if you don’t dance. So, you might as well dance.”
– Gertrude Stein
Sharing thoughts on “prayer” might seem ridiculous. We can get all stirred up about the merit or foolishness of communication that doesn’t use words. About communication that involves great sweeps of silence, as well as bursts of profound communion.
Who prays anyhow?
You might be deemed foolish by friends or acquaintances if you say you “pray.” But what do they know of how I “pray,” how you “pray?” There are too many stereotypes and distortions about praying and they may not be what I mean at all when I say I “pray.”
What do others know of the possibilities for myself when I say I will “pray?” Prayer is so multifaceted!
I may indeed: bow my head, fold my hands, close my eyes, lift my arms, sway, kneel, prostrate myself face down on a floor, sit cross-legged on a cushion. I might be in a cathedral full of stained glass light or a whitewashed one-room chapel; in the church of my forebears or in a stadium-size worship center built last month. I might be bathed in sunshine and pine-scented breezes, or under the spiral arms of the Milky Way in darkest night, when I say I am “praying”.
Praying is my chance at communion. Praying is my chance at stripping away the distractions and focusing on the power of love. When I pray I am seeking to silence my clamoring ego, my myriad voices of confusion, insecurity, pride or pain.
I am focusing on the real truth of my oneness with, not my brokenness that divides me from. When I pray I am focusing on my deepest intuition that tells me I belong, I am loved, I am a child of the universe. And the universe is kind.
When I pray, I find I am focusing on the connection…between me and all others. Of course, I start with the ones I know. Like my mother before me, I have a list in my head of beloved, of sick, of sad or suffering ones I know. We found my mother’s list after she died, tucked into a prayer book. It was a long list of names, a long long list. My dad looked at it and said, “O yeah, that’s your mom’s prayer list.” We never knew. She had so many names.
Intention, awareness, heart opening, stillness…these are the tools of “prayer” for me and many I know.
There are other tools as well: mantras and music. Beads and psalms and songs. There is incense, and there is sacrament. There is food and there is abstinence. There is darkness and there is light.
As far as I can tell, after years of being a “praying person” and learning from others, long before, from many traditions, from around the earth…there is nothing that cannot be used to bring one closer.
Closer to Communion. Closer to Love.
And this, is the purpose of all prayer. To connect us to one another, and to connect us to the Love that is in and binds all things, all creation, all time and space, together.
So, yeah, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, I may look ridiculous if I join in the praying, but it’s ridiculous if I don’t do what my heart clamors for. So, I will pray, might as well!
Join SpokaneFāVS for a Coffee Talk on the “Role of Prayer” on 10 a.m., Dec. 2 in the Jepson Center at Gonzaga University. CastroLang is a panelist.
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