Some years ago, when I was a member of a Lutheran congregation in San Francisco, a friend of mine was asked to lead the prayers of the people. During the prayer, my friend was handed a few names of those whom were in special need of prayer. One name, on the top of the list, was one in Russian—with letters my friend had never seen, let alone knew how to pronounce. He took a few stabs at the name, never quite making his lips articulate the entire name. I could tell that a few people were wincing at his poor pronunciation. After what seemed a momentary eternity, he simply looked heavenward and said, “God, you know this person’s name and their needs. We lift them up to you.” It was a good save.
I was reflecting on this situation this past week when a parishioner asked, “What’s prayer all about?” Prayer is, for many faithful, an action in which we connect with our Creator. Because God loves us, God desires that we deepen our relationship in this way. God actually cares about our worries and our hopes—even if they do seem trivial. In prayer not only do we connect with God, we learn about ourselves. If I were to pray for an all-expense paid vacation to Italy for my family and myself, God will listen. However, God will take my prayer and make me aware that it isn’t about going to a particular destination that matters—the prayer is really about needing to spend time with my family—to leave the distractions behind and be fully present in my relationships with others.
Prayer is an attitude. Prayer is something we can do in church or while shopping in the mall. Prayers can be said aloud, or kept in the deep corners of our hearts that no one but God knows. Prayers can be lifted up at the bedside of the dying or while digging new potatoes in the garden. Prayer is a way of life—recognizing that with every breath you take, God knows and cares for you and your well being. God can take our prayers of heartfelt desire and lead us down a path we didn’t know existed.