Confession: I hope you all will join me on this Zoom webinar on Wednesday, May 20 (2 days from now) sponsored by Paraclete Press. Thoughtful and funny, Jana Riess, author of Flunking Sainthood and The Twible, will interview me about Praying in Color–where the idea came from, how it has changed and expanded in the 15 years since I started doing it. The webinar will last about an hour with time for questions. Click on the picture below or on this Link to sign up; it’s FREE. If you receive these posts as an email, please go to my Blog and Share via Facebook or other social media. Thanks.
Confession: I am a bumbling extemporaneous pray-er. I get all shy and tongue-tied with God when I try to come up with accurate prayers to communicate what’s in my head and on my heart. Words escape me when I need them most, which is weird because I have always loved words. As a kid, novels, biographies, A Child’s Garden of Verses, encyclopedias, my little red KJV Bible, and Scrabble were constant companions. So I am very grateful for the Sunday School teachers of my childhood for whom words were so important. They taught me the prayers of our tradition and asked me to memorize Psalms, the Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, hymns, and one-line verses of Scripture and proclamations of faith. By the time I was eight or nine, I knew Psalms 23, 91, and 100 by heart. Sixty-some years later they are in the hard-drive of my memory and still accessible. When my own words fail in prayer, I join the unheard voices of millions of other people who recite these several-thousand-year-old hymns as part of their spiritual routine.
A couple of the favorite one-line prayers I learned in Sunday School are: “There is no spot where God is not.” “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.”* “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”(Mt 5:4 KJV) “Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.”* “In Him we live and move and have our being.”(Acts 17: 28 KJV) All of my memorized prayers, Psalms, hymns, and simple affirmations of faith are like a wardrobe of prayer shawls from which I can pick and choose. They enfold me and wrap me with the assurance that I am always in the presence of God.
Anne LaMott’s lovely 2012 book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers is a reminder that prayers do not need to be complicated or articulate, just honest. One word is sometimes all the prayer we need..
While I was packing up and getting ready to move from Tennessee to Florida in April, I found a poem I wrote in May 2009 called Three-Letter Prayers.
The night in full bloom,
The star-filled sky
Flings paperwhites across the heavens.
The open-handed man
In showerless stench,
Asks for my coins and my eyes.
A long-loved friend,
Sobered up and free at last,
The 8-hour surgery,
In the hands of Doc and God,
Brings relief and new life.
*Mary Baker Eddy