June 17, 2011

Pray without Ceasing

Filed under: Cycle of Prayer,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 7:15 pm

As this octave of Pentecost moves rapidly toward Trinity Sunday, I find myself reflecting on the life of prayer—and having a good laugh that I can even say that.

For about 25 years of my adult life, I did not pray. Oh, I was a faithful Christian, attended church, tithed, read my Bible, completed Education for Ministry (EfM), and lived deeply in the life the church and the liturgical seasons. I admired the prayer lives of others, did not hesitate to ask for help from those who were better at praying than I was, even took a few mini-classes on improving my prayer life. But I just wasn’t a pray-er.

It is only in recent years that I have allowed myself to name that I do, in fact, pray. I just don’t always do it the way I thought it was “supposed” to be done. It started with a layperson saying, “Oh, you pray; you just don’t call it that.” Then a deacon stared at me, speechless, “Really? But I never would have thought that from sitting with you!” The priest standing beside her said, “Nah….you pray.”

So I took it to my spiritual director. “Prayer can be a lot of things. So maybe the real question is how to let go of a definition of prayer that seems to bind you and name the prayer that’s there.” Good insight, but not entirely helpful.

Somewhere in the midst of this, my bishop asked me to write a prayer for our diocesan stewardship program. Do I even need to tell you that I freaked out? I froze! I sputtered… I don’t pray! I don’t know how to pray! There’s no way I can write a prayer! She calmly spelled out the formula for a Collect and told me when it needed to be finished, her way of pastorally blowing right past my protests.

And then one day, completely out of context of any of the things we were discussing, this same bishop looked me square in the eye. In a voice that was frankly a rather frightening mix of bishop, mother, boss, and friend she said, “And one more thing. You continue to insist that you don’t pray. I don’t want to hear any more of that crap from you. Got it?”

That was it. That was the moment. I can’t explain it except to say that I did, indeed, finally “get it.”My prayer life clicked and I’ve been fine ever since. In fact, I’ve been more than fine—I pray all the time now! I have learned to find and celebrate prayer and forms of prayer in the most unexpected times and places. I have learned to make prayer the foundation of every aspect of my vocation in stewardship and to share the importance of prayer with others.

And so on this second Ember Day in the Octave of Pentecost, take a moment to embrace your prayer life. Remind yourself that in all the busyness of the end of the school year, thinking about your summer, winding down your role in the church program year, or looking ahead to “what we’ll need to tackle when we get back in September,” prayer is at the foundation of it all. Breathe into your favorite approach or try something new. Don’t worry about how it’s supposed to be done; just enjoy it.


1 Comment »

  1. AMEN! This makes me feel better about the way I pray.

    Comment by Paul Beaudette — June 17, 2011 @ 11:39 pm |Reply

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