My prayer life is… well… it could use some improving. I recently made a video called “When Prayer Is Boring” reflecting on some of the challenges of daily prayer. During the holy discipline of Lent, we are called to pray, fast, and give alms, and, since I have written about the benefits of fasting before, and I hope I don’t need to write about the importance of giving charitably, I want to focus on prayer this year.
But what is prayer? Communication with God, I guess is the easiest answer. There are the traditional formalized prayers, of course, which are beautiful and very useful. But sometimes, they just feel like words. I may say “Help me, Lord” when I need something, or “I’m sorry” when I feel miserable, or thank and praise God with other words when I’m feeling happy. Is that it, though? Is prayer simply taking the time for petition, penitence, thanksgiving, and praise?
Surely, prayer is more than just time + words.
God is always and everywhere present, “In Him we live and move and have our being.”* I know this. But am I really mindful of this reality? Sometimes, I take the time to be quiet and still, mindful of God’s presence — of God’s ever-loving and ever-giving presence. This doesn’t need words. To sit in gratitude and breathe in peace is, perhaps, the best prayer, an intimate union with the Divine. I am always in the Lord’s presence (we all are), but I too often completely forget.
And I don’t always trust God’s will. (God knows this is true.)
I’m beginning to understand that an active prayer life has very little to do with words. Or even feelings. It has, I believe, everything to do with connection, with trust, with intimacy. If I only “turn” to God in prayer when I need something, or when I’m feeling thankful or afraid, then I’m not getting it. I’m missing something. Because… if I am “turning” to God when I pray, then to whom am I turned when I am not actively praying?
That’s the question.
The real orientation of my life, of my mind and my heart, is something that I would like to ponder this Lent. And I’m going to take my definition of prayer, of what true prayer life is, from this passage in the book of Jeremiah:
Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings,
who seeks his strength in flesh,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a barren bush in the desert
that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in a lava waste,
a salt and empty earth.
Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose hope is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted beside the waters
that stretches out its roots to the stream:
it fears not the heat when it comes;
its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress,
but still bears fruit.
~ Jeremiah 17:5-8
© 2022 Christina Chase
* Acts 17:28
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.