Ah, Tuesday. Tuesday morning. Some asleep, some awake, some blogging.
During my morning prayer time recently, I decided that I too often spend time thinking and not investing that time in prayer. I drink coffee, sit in the dark, listen to birds. But maybe not "pray" in any sense of the word. This is contrasted to the time when I was engrossed in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola and my prayers followed set scripture and became a lively interchange between my imagination and the scripture. Without this guidance, I quickly sink back into my own thoughts, but not prayer. To help, I need a focus; yesterday, I decided to reread Matthew Fox's Prayer: A Radical Response to Life."
When I pray, I am aware that I don't do prayers of "petition" - I don't ask God for things. Mostly that is because I don't believe in a God in the sky who grants wishes. When I pray with people, I pray for them to receive strength to get through the happenings and events that we encounter in our every day lives. I ask for God to be with them as a source of hope and light. But I don't do "please God" prayers. At least when I am thinking. Sometimes when I am not thinking, the "please God" does come through - those old habits are difficult to unlearn.
Prayers of all types may be needed, as this shows: A minister in a congregation that I belonged to prayed in this way: "God, we ask you to make ____ well - cure the cancer that is killing her. We know you can do that. Instead of hospice, give her back her life. ..." I remember feeling shocked at this prayer. To be more broad-minded, perhaps this is the prayer that person needed. Just as a priest whom I know has performed exorcisms - telling me, when I asked, that "some people just need them." Perhaps some people just need these "please God" prayers. It offers a way to hope in hopeless times.
I am guilty of what I don't want. When in CPE and when I visit the sick in hospitals, I petition - ask God - to give strength to those suffering, the families as well as the ill. For some reason, while I don't ask for miraculous healing, I seem to think that I am not saying a prayer of petition. Yet asking for strength is just that. Petitioning.
I preached on prayer a couple of weeks ago, trying to meet the individual needs of each member of the listening congregation. That means I watered down the message and did not say all of what I think about praying. Even at the beginning of his book on prayer, Fox reminds me that prayer is not changing God, but being changed by God. I wish I had said that when I preached. My congregation has quite a few who don't believe in religion, but who do think and feel spiritual. Perhaps what they really needed was Matthew Fox's take on prayer. For my own prayer life, I need to grow beyond the asking. I can hardly wait to reread the rest of the book.