Caryn’s 23 things – and then some

Racing into Library 2.0 with LOL and others

Intentional prayer

A while back, I posted on “Pray without ceasing.” (http://weblog.xanga.com/CarynW/577864871/pray-without-ceasing.html)  That was about keeping up a constant dialogue with God, praying about whatever concerns you at the moment.  This is a good thing, and I think we should try to do that, keeping God always near the top of our thoughts.  But I also don’t think we should rely on that for our entire prayer life.  There may be people or situations that don’t always occur to us, but that we need to pray about.  So, in case anyone wants to read about it, I’ll tell what else I do.

Most often, I pray at night, in bed, after turning off the light.  There are some drawbacks to this system, of course, most notably that I tend to fall asleep in the middle of the prayer.  Several years ago, I was trying to take CS Lewis’ advice to kneel to pray.  I thought, and still think, that his rationale for it was logical: since we’re physical creatures, what we do with our bodies affects what and how we think.  Assuming a position that we use for only one purpose, prayer, helps us condition ourselves to a prayerful attitude whenever we do it.  Also, it’s harder to fall asleep that way!  But only a few months after I’d managed to overcome my Presbyterian feelings of embarrassment and actually do it, the knees started to go, and now I can’t kneel for very long.  So, back to lying in bed with my eyes closed.  The threat of falling asleep can sometimes keep me focused on finishing my prayers so I can go to sleep in good conscience, though, so that’s good.

It seems to help to say an invocation, to keep my mind from wandering off too much.  Most often, I just leap into prayer, but after running through several subjects only tangentially related to prayer, I’ll repeat one or more of “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” or “Almighty God, to Whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from Whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your Holy Name, through Christ, our Lord.”  That second one is from the Prayerbook, and I love it.  These two seem to help focus a bit.

Long ago, in Sunday school, one of my teachers advised us always to start our daily prayer with thanks.  We should thank God for the day, and for anything good that happened in it.  This is a good idea, because otherwise we tend to start out asking for stuff, and sometimes don’t get around to doing anything else.  Although we are supposed to ask God for what we need, it’s very selfish not to thank for what we already have.  So I always start out, “Mother/Father God” (or Father/Mother – I try to switch off), “thank you for today,” and follow with examples.  If the weather was nice, or I got something accomplished that I’d been avoiding, or I had a nice conversation – anything I can think of.  This is also where I apologize for anything I did wrong, but I don’t feel called upon to do that every day.  I think of myself as a fairly good person, and I really don’t do anything I consider a sin every day.

Several years ago, my mom sent me the “Five-Finger Prayer.”  It’s not a specific prayer, but a method of using your fingers as prayer beads to remind yourself to pray for various things, and it seems to work for me.  Here’s the whole thing:

5 Finger  Prayer

1. Your  thumb is nearest to you. So begin your prayers by
praying for those closest to  you. They are the easiest to remember. To
pray for our loved ones is, as C. S Lewis once said, a “sweet duty.”

2. The  next finger is the pointing finger Pray for those who
teach, instruct and  heal. This includes teachers, doctors, and
ministers. They need support and  wisdom in pointing others in the
right direction. Keep them in your  prayers.

3. The  next finger is the tallest finger. It reminds us of our
leaders. Pray for the  president, leaders in business and industry, and
administrators. These people  shape our nation and guide public
opinion. They need God’s guidance. Also include our servicemen and
women here and abroad who always stand tall in the  duty of defending
and protecting our nation. They need God’s strength and comfort.

4. The  fourth finger is our ring finger. Surprising to many is the
fact that this is  our weakest finger; as any piano teacher will
testify. It should remind us to  pray for those who are weak, in
trouble or in pain. They need your prayers day  and night. You cannot
pray too much for  them.

5. And  lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all.
Which is where we  should place ourselves in relation to God and
others. As the Bible says, “The  least shall be the greatest among
you.” Your pinkie should remind you to pray  for yourself. By the time
you have prayed for the other four groups, your own  needs will be put
into proper perspective and you will be able to pray for yourself more
effectively.

That’s basically it.  In the pointing-finger prayer, I include doctors, firefighters/EMTs and other emergency personnel, police, teachers, ministers, professors, librarians/archivists – pretty much everyone whose efforts make civilization civilized.  I don’t always go down the whole list, and sometimes I just refer to it in shorthand as “the good guys.”  Also at this time, I pause and listen for sirens.  Since I live in a close-in suburb of DC, I almost always hear one, and pray for everyone involved: not only the police/fire/emergency people responding to whatever the crisis is, but also the victim(s) and the perpetrators (if any).  I usually refer to them in shorthand as “all concerned.”

I find it particularly appropriate, especially in the last 7 1/2 years, that the middle finger is for the government.  I very often feel like displaying that finger toward our elected officials!  Lately, I pray especially that God will help us elect the people that God wants us to have in charge – I can’t begin to think that that’s been the case so far this millenium.

For the ring finger, I pray not only for people in distress, but also for endangered species, abused animals, and polluted or ruined environments.  I generally make a special prayer for anyone stuck in a riot or a war zone, that they all get out without hurting or being hurt.

Then, if I haven’t fallen asleep, it’s my turn!  This is harder than it sounds – practically everything I pray for anyone/anything else reminds me of something *I* want or need, so I’ve usually said most of what I wanted to say along those lines before this point.  But I’ll present it formally, and try to remember to make it “not my will, but thine be done.”  I finish up by asking for a good night’s sleep and energy for the next day.

How do you pray?

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments

Mourning

Recently, a couple of friends of mine have separately lost people they loved.  As Christians, they haven’t felt that it was appropriate to mourn, since they’re sure in their faith that the loved ones are in Heaven.  One of them, though, couldn’t help feeling sad, and felt guilty about it.

I told both of them that it’s ok to mourn, even in their situation.  You’re not mourning the person, in the way that you are sad when te has a fatal disease (but hasn’t died) or is injured.  In that case, you’re sad because a bad thing has happened to tir.  But once te’s died, a good thing has happened to tir, but a bad thing has happened to you.  When someone sends you a joke that the person would have loved, you start to forward it – and remember that you won’t laugh with tir again.  When you have a problem, and need advice, you won’t be able to go to tir and hear something helpful that will make you feel better.  You won’t be seeing tir at the Thanksgiving Day table, or at your mutual favorite mall.  You miss tir.  But what you’re mourning is tes absence, not tes fate.  You’re actually mourning for yourself, and the great times and relationship you used to have with this person, which now needs to be suspended until you’re where te is.

One of my friends thought that made sense, and (I think) felt a little less guilty.  The other didn’t reply to my e-mail – maybe to him, any mourning is forbidden.  I hope not, because God made us in such a way that when people we love are absent, we are sad for ourselves.  We need to recognize that.

March 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments