“Learning to Pray”
taken from Treasury of Prayer: Prayers of Hope and Faith
You know, Lord, how well You know, the years when I didn’t pray (or didn’t think I prayed). How could I pray to someone whose very existence I doubted? How could I ask for help from a force I spurned?
Yet all the while I was hungering for You, groping to find Your hand as I stumbled in the darkness of my needs . . . “If I could pray,” I thought. “If I could only learn to pray.”
But I felt foolish when I tried; I felt phony, insincere. My doubts seemed to rise up like a mockery between us. And You knew my follies and faults all too well. My tongue was inarticulate – it winced to form the words. My own self-scorn made me impotent, dumb.
I would get up from my fumbling so called prayers with an empty heart, feeling rejected, turned away. (Was there some secret rubric others had discovered? Some key that would make the heavens open, unlock the special doors?)
I was wrong. In a while, maybe from sheer persistence, something began to happen within me. A sense of being accepted, however unworthy. (no -not merely accepted, welcome, welcomed home!) And the deep excited stirrings of trust in a power I could not see.
Then I went to the formula You gave in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Our Father who are in heaven.” How kind that seems. “Hallowed be Thy name.” The gentle beginnings of worship . . .
“Thy kingdom come” (within me). “Thy will be done” (take over my life, I”m not doing so well) “on earth as it is in heaven.” (I like this earth. I don’t know about heaven, but it must be a wonderful place.)
“Give us this day our daily bread” (just enough for today, Lord, enough time and money and strength to get through this one day) . . . “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive” (are my trespasses blocking the road to You? and my lack of forgiveness for those who’ve hurt me?).
“Lead us not into temptation” (this I don’t understand – You couldn’t, You wouldn’t – just hang on to me when I am tempted, give me the will not to yield). “Deliver us from evil” (yes, yes, that’s what I mean – deliverance).
“For Thine is the power and the glory forever and ever.” (It is, it is, it hast to be, and the more often I admit it, express it, the more I know it’s true!)
So in this way I began to get deliverance, Lord. The deliverance I sought. From self-doubt, which was so deeply enmeshed with my doubts of You.
And to learn the fundamentals of prayer: worship, submission, acceptance, plea, and then more worship to seal it. And I began to know then as I realize now that worship itself is the key. The magic key. Prayer brings You close when we come not merely seeking help, but because we want to be with You.
“Prayer of Praise”
by Saint Augustine
But let my soul praise Thee that it may love Thee,
And let it tell Thee Thy mercies that it may praise Thee.
Without ceasing Thy whole creation speaks Thy praise-
The spirit of every man by the words that his mouth directs to Thee,
Animals and lifeless matter by the mouth of those who look upon them.
That so our soul rises out of its mortal weariness unto Thee,
Helped upward by the things Thou hast made
And passing beyond them unto Thee who has wonderfully made them:
And there refreshment is and strength unfailing. Amen.