The Practice of Prayer
Rev. Justin McCreary
One of the most powerful aspects of religion is prayer. Pictures of prayer prevail our culture and fill our minds with hopeful thoughts. Prayer is an old concept and at it’s core a simple one often entrenched in centuries of institutional dogma. Often the only prayers we hear are public and offered ceremoniously in some form of service. The prayer then becomes a social convention used only to open ceremonies and fill space in church services., and this separates us from the core matter of prayer, the purpose, connection.
As a youth and into my adult years I sat in church services listening to the old men pray. I often sat fearing the call to pray in public. What is telling is that I was prepared to preach a sermon at twelve but the butterflies didn’t form until I was asked to lead prayer.
However, in the long run, I found was that it didn’t matter what I said but only that I was honest. Instead of ceremony I found simple conversation. And If prayer is simply conversation then maybe the conversation I had from day to day was prayer, and I learned that my favorite conversations had a lot of comfortable silence. So at night, sitting on the edge of my bed, with no words, I wondered, is this prayer? If so it is more than conversation, it is connection. Connection that wasn’t found in words, but the golden silence that adorned what would become holy space.
Of course, learning to sit in silence requires a lot of learning to let go. And learning to let go requires a lot of suffering. Under the Bodhi Tree a young prince learned that life is suffering. This gives us a lot of fodder for letting go, which gives us a lot of time for silence, which leaves us plenty of room for prayer. Life teaches that the most important thing about prayer is the practice of prayer. This is a thing that we can always do, and never worry about doing right, because doing it is doing it right.