Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prayer - 1

I've been pondering, here on my little sabbatical, the following question: about what might I like to blog for the next while?  Is there something I'd like to explore with some consistency in this context?  

And then, out of some conversations with a whole wide variety of folks over the past few days, waltzed my topic of choice: Prayer. Something those of us who hang out here from time to time might focus upon in a more or less concentrated way for a number of weeks.  

And because this is a blog, and the blogs I enjoy most and those I have written myself focus on explorations of personal experience, I'll approach this topic through the same lens.

I took the image above one morning three summers ago, having rolled out of bed early enough to catch the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I like it as an illustration of prayer. Light and dark, mountains and valleys, trees right before us and vistas inviting us into a distant unknown.  A vast landscape for a vast topic.

But I'm going to start at the beginning.  And lest you think that I have a lifetime of experience upon which to draw, let me say, right at the outset, that the following represents my interest in and attentiveness to prayer for about the first forty years of my life:

How about you?  Was prayer a feature of your childhood or young adulthood?  Or not so much?


  1. Prayer was a big part of my childhood and young adulthood - but unremarkably so. I lived behind the convent, so saw people who prayed everyday, every day, which I'm just beginning to suspect left me thinking that people who prayed also did laundry and planted beans and ate chocolate chip cookies. Prayer wasn't something for the otherwordly...

  2. I was raised Catholic. Attended Catholic school for seven years. 'Nuf said...

  3. I prayed a lot as a child - probably daily. I had so much going on in my family life, God was my primary constant, the one who felt stable, listened, never judged, always showed compassion. Go figure, that is just how I knew God the first fourteen years of my life. The next twenty years were an exploration in how I was going to be in relationship with God and a community of faith. The next twenty years have been the formation of the relationship.

  4. My prayer experience as a child was more of the prayers we used in the church, and the blessings before meals. They were the ones of repetition. Over the years, those prayers of repetition have remained somewhat constant, but have deepened. What has changed is the notion that prayer can be so much more than the prayers we pray in church or the ones that are in a book. Prayers can be silent, prayers of action, praying unceasingly takes on a whole different meaning. And the more I talk to others about prayer, my prayer life opens up to different possibilities.

  5. Around the time that I turned four years old, we started attending church, and I learned about God. I recall thinking, when I heard "God is Love" (which was written on the wall of the Sunday School), Of course! It seemed natural. And we were taught to pray daily, and read the bible daily. Though I don't agree with the premises of the Christian Science religion now, I am deeply thankful for the grounding in the daily study of the Bible and daily prayer. Robin, you ask such good questions - thank you!

  6. Robin, I'm so glad you took a very brief sabbatical! Prayer has always been a part of my life. When I was little and afraid or sad, I knew I could talk to Jesus and he would listen. I still have a small plaque that my parents gave me when I was eight years old (many, many years ago) which says "Prayer changes things". I no longer believe that theology because our circumstances may not change but our attitudes can so prayer really changes us. I still have lots of conversations with Jesus all day long but, in recent years as a convert to Catholicism, I have learned to value the richness of many written prayers of others who have documented their prayer lives for us.

  7. The first forty years: Put me in the camp of "not so much". We did always say grace meals...God is great; God is good; Let us thank him for our food. Amen.

    As a very young child I remember saying the classic "Now I lay me down to sleep..."

    There were a couple of times I tried to read the bible straight through (6th grade or so) after a Sunday School teacher suggested it.

    From high school into college...still in the "not much" camp except for the corporate type prayer during worship or at a bible study.

  8. My word verification for previous post was: louse

    kid. you. not. LOL

  9. Lisa, that Nuff said could mean a lot of things!

  10. It's fascinating to me that so many people (a) were introduced to prayer as children and (b) accepted it as a real and good thing.

    Another post . . .

  11. I'm another in the camp of childhood pray-ers. My parents weren't people of faith, but sent me to a Christian primary school, and I learned to pray there. Also, my maternal grandmother was Catholic, and every night before bed when I visited her, we'd pray the rosary together. In high school and college, I always had at least one other girl, sometimes a small group, with whom I prayed on a regular basis.

  12. I'm another one who was introduced to prayer as a child. But most of my memories of praying are fuzzier than specifics of church and Sunday School. I believe my mom would have been a pastor had she been born a generation later (and though she could have gone to seminary later in her life, was too shaped by the past I think to do so). I believe that shaped things.

    The one specific conversation I recall with my mom around prayer was when I was 9 years old. My dad had just been diagnosed with cancer and given a bleak outlook. My mom told us (my older sister and I) that 'daddy has cancer and is going to die. We and the doctors will do everything we can. And we'll pray. But daddy is going to die.' I know we prayed. My dad died six months later. And somehow, I still prayed.

    My prayer life has ebbed and flowed since then, but I still accept some of the basics of prayer I learned as a child--God is real, God is there, God is listening.

  13. I've been praying as long as I remember. Sometimes with faith, sometimes with doubt, but the prayers continue no matter the outcome. Since we are commanded to pray, I figure there is some very important reason for it. When prayers aren't answered as I hope, I feel dismay, yet do believe that they are somehow answered in some heavenly place, in some secret way, that will make perfect sense one day.

    Karen EAST

    1. Karen East, I have been thinking about answered prayer differently since the Ben Towne Foundation started. The hope and prayer which I had for a cure for Katie, and then after her passing the hope/prayer I had for better treatment, specifically using the immune system, is being answered now by the research that is being done by Dr. Jensen and others, here in Seattle & elsewhere. I recall saying, when Dr. J. was explaining his work, "It's the answer to our prayers!" Someone said, "It's too late [for our kids]" & my response was, "But not for the others!" It is not the answer I was hoping for, but it IS an answer. So that has opened my thoughts about prayers and answers recently.

  14. Childhood prayers were superficial yet heartfelt pleas--"let me be asked to the dance", "let my parents stop fighting", "let me be pretty"...
    It wasn't until college that those prayers really took on a real "meaning".

  15. Because I used to be a very good little girl, I prayed as the Sunday School teachers told me to pray. At home, not much at all.

    My father died when I was young and somehow (!) Bible passages about God caring for the widows and fatherless permeated my very being. I trusted that God would be there caring for me, caring for all of us, no matter what. Got me through a lot.