Published November 30, 2006
It is 6:15 a.m., and I am sitting in my prayer chair, a blue Queen Anne recliner, with Tinker Bell the cat purring on my lap.
Groggily, I ask God to remember those who are especially in need, such as a neighbor facing surgery, another in a nursing home, and others who are ill.
But, oh, how the mind does wander! I will be smack dab in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer, and suddenly realize I am wondering if the bananas are ripe enough to make bread.
Each time my mind scurries down a new road, I gently draw it back and continue praying, and can imagine God chuckling at how scattered I am.
As a child, I saw God as a big celestial Santa Claus, who was supposed to dole out the goodies I asked for, which usually meant taking care of my parents, relatives—and don’t forget the turtles—on my list.
And just as I never wrote a thank-you note to Santa, I rarely thanked God for answering my pleas but did get mighty peeved when He failed to give me what I wanted.
As an adult, I’ve discovered that prayer has different flavors.
Often, I pray strictly from my head, enumerating who needs what, and trying to cross all the T’s and dot the I’s just right.
But, at other times, prayers emerge from my heart.
Sitting in the chair with Tinker Bell, I enjoy the symphony of crickets in the yard or watch the hummingbirds at our feeder, and in these moments, savoring the wonder of God’s creation seems like a prayer to me.
In a beautiful book called “Enjoy the Lord,” Father John Catoir suggests that we ask God for a simple gift: a loving heart.
“It isn’t sweetness of spirit that produces prayer, it is prayer that produces sweetness of spirit,” he notes.
A sweet spirit would bear delicious fruit: the ability to stop nursing old wounds; the gift of being aware of the present moment, and noticing when people are in need.
All prayer is a conversation with God, and at times, my tongue gets tied, and I sit in the blue chair, feeling that God is far away and blaming myself because evidently I lack some vital ingredient in the mysterious prayer formula.
This kind of harsh self-judgment is familiar to all of us, says Father Catoir, who offers encouraging words:
“Your inner turmoil is itself acceptable to Him as an act of love.”
Just like a parent won’t turn down the smallest gift from a child, God will accept everything from us: our confusion, our distractions—and even the most humdrum moments of our days.
A wonderful morning prayer is offering God the gift of our work, whether it is driving a bus, teaching a child, washing a floor or programming a computer.
As the day progresses, Peter Kreeft in “Prayer for Beginners” suggests that we use a “stop, look and listen” plan to remind ourselves of God’s presence.
We can stop what we are doing, even if it is just for one minute in each hour of the day, and turn our attention to God.
We can look at Him, not with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith. Obviously, we cannot see God in a literal sense, but we can gaze at Him within our hearts, by acknowledging His presence there.
Listening to God can mean finding a quiet spot and enjoying the sound of nature, which is one way the Creator speaks to us, or reading the words of Christ in the Gospels, and hearing what the message conveys to us.
Kreeft promises that if you spend quiet time each day with God, you will become more familiar with His voice in your mind, and will enjoy a deeper relationship with Him.
“He is not your Santa, he is your savior,” he notes, reminding us that God is not going to give us all the goodies on our lists.
And the most wondrous thing, I remind myself, whenever I settle into the chair with the cat, is that prayer, in all its flavors, is a way of befriending God and telling Him that we love Him.
“I cannot tell you what he will give you,” writes Kreeft, “except for one thing: he will give you himself.”
Somehow, even on days when all the words come out snarled and my mind goes scurrying down odd passages, that promise is enough to keep me sitting in the chair. And lifting my heart to God.
Artwork featured in the paper edition by Jef Murray. Lorraine Murray’s latest book is “How Shall We Celebrate?” — a collection of meditations on Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and other special days of the year. Readers may e-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.