This morning I opened my calendar and noticed that today is the National Day of Prayer.
Prayer represents something different for all of us, doesn’t it? I am aware of how my own perspective of prayer has changed– along with all aspects of my life– as I have grown and allowed my curiosities and questions to guide and teach me. When I listen to some people talk about their experience, it seems that prayer is a wild craving; at other times, an expression of peaceful satisfaction. And, for various and good reasons, not everyone has a practice of prayer yet would describe themselves as spiritual. We are wonderfully unique, and what serves some does not serve others. For some of us, the idea or practice of prayer is attached to very painful or traumatic experiences. When this happens, prayer may no longer feel like a safe place, or like something that makes sense anymore. The process of learning how to pray for one’s self can be very healing; the process of letting go of practices like prayer and being spiritually free in a new way is how healing happens for others. Whatever your opinion or relationship to prayer and other spiritual matters may be, I hope it empowers you to be good to yourself and others. I hope you feel validated and confident in your footing, even if your beliefs and practices do not look like everyone else’s. Your uniqueness is something the rest of us need, and I thank you for every way that you offer your unique goodness to the world.
Though absolutely not required, the process of counseling can easily be integrated with whatever your spiritual perspective or practice may be. It is one way that some people choose to bring their whole self to the therapeutic experience. Counseling can also be a safe place to heal from spiritual injury and grief, and to redirect your path. Whomever you are and no matter your spiritual perspective, you deserve to be met with compassion, respect, and acceptance. I extend this hope to you: May today find you holding some contentment, a robust amount of curiosity, and the knowing that someone out there is sending love and care your way.
Below are a few personal musings about prayer, followed by a poem by the magical Mary Oliver.
Perhaps prayer is…
…an expression of gratitude, or a way of transforming our longing from the state of invisible quietude to something nearly tangible, almost like a sculpture of thanks and desire.
…a form of connection into a fuller sense of who we are, and to whatever lies beyond us.
…a way of being honest with ourselves– about what we feel, need, or want and do not know how to express in any other way.
…a way of helping something deep within us set our coordinates and sense of direction.
…a gate to release what has been contained and deserves to be set free.
…a vessel to hold what is precious and maybe even fragile.
For those who are drawn to prayer…
If the contents of your heart feel unlanguageable, and there are no words that could possibly express what you know and feel inside… Pray your silence.
If you are full of words and stormy emotions that feel confused and directionless… Pray your chaos.
If you do not hear words but feel energy surging and swirling inside you… Pray with your body.
If you feel the instinct to slow, to stop, and this somehow communicates something on your behalf… Pray with your stillness.
“I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver (A Thousand Mornings)
I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.
While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.