I sat in my bed in the darkness staring at the ceiling, and realized I couldn’t remember the last time I prayed. I know there has been the occasional, “Please, God” that comes from a place of desperation. I have often uttered the phrase, “I’m praying for you”, or “You’re in my prayers” to a friend or acquaintance who has suffered a loss or is going through a trial. But when was the last time I laid myself open and sought to make a connection with the Divine?
I don’t know why I’ve forgotten to pray. Time, the demands of life, the ease of slipping into routines. But lately I’ve felt the loss, the need to connect. Father Moon says, “Prayer is your heart’s storehouse. If you do not have time, you should at least pray while doing your work. You should pray even while doing your laundry or walking down the road. You should constantly fill up your storehouse; it should never be empty.” (Cheon Seong Gyeong, 1060)
My storehouse feels dangerously close to empty.
Prayer Turned Inward
When I was young, I would stare at the ceiling from my mattress on the floor and have conversations with God as if He were a friend at school. Even at five years old, I remember wondering if I was speaking to a supernatural being, myself, or the ceiling. And yet, I continued to pray well into my teenage and adult years. Sometimes I lit candles, other times I went for a walk in the woods. Many times, a prayer came out as a song or written down in my journal.
Maybe we say a prayer of thanks at the dinner table or bow our heads at church, but do we take time in our daily life to stop and connect to our own heart? Prayer is not just about making wishes or asking for something from God, it is a place of quiet meditation. To sit in stillness and listen, to ponder the world and my own heart, to slow down. Prayer centers me and helps me show up in the world as the kind of person I want to be.
“For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?” says poet Khalil Gibran, who urges us in his poem, Prayer XXIII, to pray in our joy as well as our sorrow. God is willing to meet us wherever we are at, whatever we are feeling. We turn to prayer in sorrow for that kind of comfort, but how glorious would it be if we remembered to share our joy? Might it only magnify?
Prayer Turned Outward
There’s no doubt to me that prayer has the ability to benefit me on a personal level, but what of the prayers that we send outward? When we remember someone in our prayers, do those words reach across time and space? Can our words, sent out into the universe, heal someone of sickness, comfort a broken heart, or chisel away at the evils of the world?
As a writer, I make a living in words. I have to believe that words make a difference. And yet, I know that it’s not just the words on the page that matter, but the expression of something transcendent. It’s the connection made when those words are shared and resonate in another’s heart. As the great philosopher and poet Rumi said, “Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”
Words represent the opportunity to connect. The opportunity for understanding and a shared sense of humanity. In this sense, words do have the power to heal, comfort, and bind us together. It’s why we continue to write poetry or music, and why a spoken, “I love you” can bring us to tears.
Is it then too much of a reach to think that the words I say with bowed head and clasped hands, might reach beyond my own lips and travel to their intended destination?
Belief does not require us to know all of the answers, only to trust in God and our own inner voice. In prayer we are free to ask the questions, to grapple with our own understanding, and to listen for answers or the beating of our hearts.
As I lie down and stare at the ceiling tonight, I feel that awkward tug in my gut, like greeting an old friend you hardly recognize. But I know and trust that God will meet me where I am. That in time, the awkwardness will fade. For God has been there all along, watching, knowing, and waiting. It was only I that forgot. It’s time to fill up the storehouse, one prayer at a time.