Wednesday, November 03, 2004


The topic of last Sunday's adult education lecture at my church was the Daily Prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. The Catechism states that prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words. I've been thinking about prayer a lot recently, probably because I haven't been praying all that much. Funny enough, earlier on the same day as the aforementioned lecture, I led the prayers for the Morning Prayer Service at my church. I accidently left out the Lord's Prayer -- several parishioners mentioned this, I hadn't even noticed.
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Prayer is an interesting thing. When I was taking my Bible study, I prayed, well, religiously -- we're talking on my knees, using the Lord's Prayer and then a free form prayer with penitence followed by thanksgiving and oblation and intercession and petition. I was pretty happy with that. I felt like it was a good discipline and usually felt peaceful afterwards. These days, I really haven't felt like praying that way and I haven't. I pray all the time, sort of an internal monologue in my head -- while driving, especially, its a semi-quiet time when my kids aren't interrupting me.

Prayer forms -- good or bad? I tend to avoid them because they seem coldly formal to me. They are something someone else has written. However, my own personal prayers tend to become formulaic pretty quickly, so I'm not so certain they are the better choice than a prepared prayer.

I'm currently reading (at an incredibly slow pace) Agnes Sanford's Behold Your God. From an early chapter on prayer, she proposes a method very new to me. First of all, it doesn't involve kneeling but relaxing the body so the mind and spirit can focus. I've always wondered if we're supposed to kneel -- I think C.S. Lewis once indicated that kneeling was an important reminder of our animal form (am I way off on this?) as a reverance to God. So, do I kneel or not? I don't like kneeling, it hurts my knees, I don't even kneel in church, I sit on the edge of the pew and lean forward onto the rail (am I going to hell for this? Just kidding, I really don't seen it as a damning offense).

Agnes also directs that in prayer we are seek to contact God, so we are to keep a clear mind, at least at first (she says to hold off on the intercessions until we've made contact). I probably haven't read enough of the book to understand what she's saying, but its a departure from the way I've looked at prayer. The idea of being silent (meditating, really) rather than babbling at God the way I do, is intriguing. Speaking of babbling, thats what I'm doing at this point, so I'll stop.


david said...

Body Postures in Prayer.

What body postures would be comfy for you? Which ones could you use to remind yourself you are at prayer?

God made us to be spiritual bodies or incarnate spirits. And so we do not prayer with our minds but with ourselves -- bodies included.

I don't think God cares whether we bow our heads or kneel. But having things we do with our bodies helps to remind ourselves what we are about.

I took on the discipline of smiling during Quaker meeting. A changed the whole texture of the waiting worship. Theres a kind of feedback loop between our moods and our facial expressions which we never notice until we pay attention.

Don't know if any of this speaks to your condition.

Marjorie said...

With regard to your questions -- I think I'd have a different answer for each. My posture for comfort might be in conflict with a posture that reminds me I'm in prayer. I'll be thinking about this one.

I agree with what you said about smiling -- besides the fact that it helps one's personal outlook, it encourages others to be positive. I don't know if this applies to a Quaker meeting, but I know at Church, when you're up front, its nice to look out and see some smiles and not scowls. I think anyone who has led any kind of meeting feels this way.

Larry said...

Hello friends:
Re smiling: Some years ago I noticed that a prominent news commentator suddenly seemed to have the corners of his mouth up constantly. Couldn't determine if it was a smile and didn't think so.

Anyway I started noticing my face in the mirrow and suddenly realized that the corners of my mouth were turned down. Then I noticed that at our meeting (mostly old people) almost everyone's corners were down -- in repose?

So I started paying closer attention to that, especially at meeting, and tried to keep my mouth straight. I don't know, but I think it has become almost habitual.

I'm not sure how that relates to smiling, but it must have some sort of significance. I think it must have to do with one's general attitude. One thing I've noticed is that Republican types, I mean business go getters and such, never seem to have the corners of their mouths down. I certainly don't want to emulate them, but feel better when my corners are not down.

Oh, yes, Pretty young girls seem to be always smiling, like Sam Donaldson's were, but more natural looking.


Larry said...

it's me again. On prayer:

I love to talk about myself: I've found that gratitude is the key for me to stay up with God.
I feel so thankful about so much, and spend half of my time wondering about how all this could happen to me. My father and I were poor most of our lives and fully intended to die poor, but he didn't, and now I don't expect to. So there is so much to be thankful for.

Jesus called him Abba (Daddy), and I think he meant for us to also. So I think of God like that. Knowing that he loved (loves) me changed my life completely, and is still the most wonderful thing about God. It means the universe is beneficent (in spite of all appearances to the contrary).

Disciplines are valuable, though I often omit them.

I met a young lady at the hospital where I go on Thursday mornings, and she is ALWAYS pleasant-- and considerate. It turns out she's pentecostal ; I mean to blog about that. But I feel like she does on Thursday mornings; I get my mind off myself; everything is bright (although sometimes I have to cry over the patients).

On those occasions I feel like I'm living in the spirit of God, my father. It's the best time of the week for me. I wish I could be that thankful (and conscious) all the time.

I love you all and pray for you.

Jared Jones said...

Great thoughts! I ran across this recently:

"Prayer is like lying awake at night, afraid, with your head under the cover, hearing only the beating of your own heart. It is like a bird that has blundered down the flue and is caught indoors and flutters at the windowpanes. It is like standing a long time on a cold day, knocking at a shut door.

"But sometimes a prayer comes that you have not thought to pray, yet suddenly there it is and you pray it. Sometimes you just trustfully and easily pass into the other world of sleep. Sometimes the bird finds that what looks like an opening is an opening, and it flies away. Sometimes the shut door opens and you go through it into the same world you were in before, in which you belong as you did not before."

- Wendell Berry, from Jayber CrowBest wishes!


Marjorie said...

Hi Jared, thanks for commenting. I really enjoyed that excerpt, it really resonates. Thanks for the book recommendation