Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Meditation: On Prayer

The Man of God (my neighbor, Pastor Paul) and I were talking about prayer. I mentioned to him that my Brother In BFE had said that he was trying to pray more; that he felt like he didn't pray enough (or maybe at the right times).

I told TMOG that my first thought in response to that was, "What? You don't pray as you breathe?"

And TMOG pointed out, quite rightly, that I am fortunate in being able to do what Buddhists call walking meditation, and what I call prayer while breathing.

I am not much of a Christian. I'm still not down, Dawg, with the primary tenets of the Christian faith, chief among them being Jesus' divinity. I studied comparative religion in college and so learned about a donkey-headed half-man, half-god who was nailed to a tree and raised from the dead three days later. I have too much doubt to call myself a Christian, though I might call myself, on a good day, a follower of Christ. (Paul-the-Pastor says that Christian disciples go all the way up on the cross, while followers stop at the bottom of the hill. I'm down here, at the bottom of the hill. Join me! I have cookies!)

And yet I pray. I pray intercessory prayers, for people I work with who are sick or hurting. I pray intercessory prayers for my patients. I pray intercessory prayers for myself, because there are things that I want to change.

Most of the time, though, the prayers are wordless. They come out of me as simply as a breath and as regularly. What began as a conscious effort when I was in school has evolved to a very simple state of being, in which weeding the garden is a prayer. Dusting the bookshelves is a prayer. Dealing with the be-damned cats is sometimes not so much a prayer as a florid curse, but I'm working on that one.

There are times when words simply won't do. Those times happen most often when I'm confronted with a person so sick, so beyond my help, that I can't even comprehend what on earth I'm supposed to be doing here. It's in those times that a still, small voice (there is a little cloud/it is like a man's hand) tells me to do the simplest thing first. I consider that an answer to a wordless prayer.

I would not be here, talking about this, were it not for the work I do.

In the main, I am a scientist. I look dispassionately on what works and what doesn't; the idea of a double-blind study is like crack. But there is a part of me that prays with every step as though I were counting the beads on a Buddhist rosary: one hundred and eight, with subsidiary strands: enough to get lost in the process.

We are all dichotomus. The friend who has been seeking Christ finds he doesn't pray enough. I, who have never sought Christ but instead raged at God and cursed Her less-understandable ideas, am the one who prays as naturally as breathing.

From Brother Cadfael's Penance, by Ellis Peters:

If it was the sharp, clear cold of frost outside, it was the heavy, solemn cold of stone within the nave, near darkness, and utter silence. The similitude of death, but for the red-gold gleam of the constant lamp on the parish altar. Beyond in the choir, two altar candles burned low. . .Now he had now true right to mount the one shallow step that would take him into the monastic paradise. His lower place was here, among the laity, but he had no quarrel with that; he had known, among the humblest, spirits excelling archbishops, and as absolute in honor as earls. . .

. . .He lay down on his face, close, close, his overlong hair brushing the shallow step up into the choir, his brown against the chill of the tiles, the absurd bristles of his unshaven tonsure prickly as thorns. His arms he spread wide, clasping the uneven edges of the patterned paving as drowning men hold fast to drifting weed. He prayed without coherent words, for all those caught between right and expedient, between duty and conscience, between the affections of earth and the abnegations of heaven. . .


Kirstin said...

I love this post.

Kimberly said...

I've liked your blog for a long time. Posts like this are a big part of the reason. I look forward to taking you "with" me as I begin nursing school in June. Thank you for being willing to share so much so often.

bobbie said...


messymimi said...

Prayer should be like breathing, I agree, and I hope to someday get to that place.

I do happen to be a Christian, one who yells at God a lot, especially when my friends and loved ones are hurting.

My hope is that I will spend my first hundred years in heaven at the Almighty's kitchen table, drinking good coffee and laughing over all the doctrines I got wrong.

We need nurses who pray, and no prayer is ever wasted.

By the way, I don't blame you about the cats -- right now I have 4 kittens who should be weaning who are refusing to learn to drink from a bowl, no matter how hungry they are. Cats could pull cuss words from saints, never mind us mere mortals.

nosokomaniac said...

Reason #792 I read your blog? You quote Ellis Peters. Well done.

rebekah said...

Brilliant post. You manage to get into my head at the most opportune times. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I now have a way to explain how show my faith...i pray as I breath..beauutttiiifffuull