Let my prayer be set forth in Your sight as incense, and the lifting up of my hands an evening sacrifice -Psalm 141
The image of incense smoke rising upward in a building or a night sky has informed much of my own quiet prayer. When fragrance and smoke rise through candles both the scent and the sight are illuminated. It is as if prayer can be seen as delicate and fragile wisps of hope and desire.
The fragrance of prayer is both earthy and ethereal. It is the fragrance of holiness.
My life’s work has been all about prayer. I have practiced prayer, taught prayer, prayed with others and been surprised by the very breath of prayer that supports my life and the life of the earth. I have also had moments of abandoning prayer or praying when nothing seems to happen and no connections have been made.
I have learned some things about the prayer life and expect to continue learning because prayer is not static nor does the life of the Spirit stand still.
For today, at least, I share three things that have been helpful to my deepening in prayer.
1) Pray every day
2) Pray everywhere
3) Pray for everyone
Pray Every Day
It has been said that showing up is 90% of any important work. This is true of prayer as well. When I am intentional about my daily prayer I am tuning my body, mind and spirit to a posture and a life of prayer. A deep relationship with God, or any being, requires some attention. In daily prayer we are learning about God and we are learning about ourselves. We are practicing love.
Of course there are some places that seem to lend themselves more easily to a prayerful experience and we will want to seek those out. Our daily prayer will become our sanctuary from which all other prayer may rise.
Practicing prayer everywhere reminds us that God’s creation and God’s people are sacred. There is no place that isn’t enriched by our prayers rising up from the heart and into the atmosphere of the place we find ourselves. I have prayed in hospitals, malls, at grocery stores, and during family disputes-to name a few. Every time I have prayed in an unusual place, I have been changed into a more compassionate person.
This is the value of prayer!
Pray for Everyone
Our model for including everyone in our prayers is Jesus’ own prayer life. A template we might use is found in the Book of Common Prayer.
Known as the prayers of the people, this prayer is right in the heart of our liturgical action on Sunday morning. We pray for the people throughout the world including our enemies and those we do not know. Our consistent, loving prayer reminds us that we are all fighting a tremendous battle of some kind. We have the opportunity to love, really love, others. The kind of love that Christ showers upon us has an easier time moving through us when we cultivate the heart of prayer.
To pray, then, means to become transparent to the beauty and holiness of God.