As I was having my morning coffee this morning, I read two really beautiful prayers. One was posted by a friend on Facebook and one I found in Henry Nouwen’s book, The Dance of Life. If you haven’t discovered Henri Nouwen, go check him out. He really touches the core of things spiritual and what it’s like to be human. I digress. I started thinking about prayers and how powerful and beautiful they are.
My blog on The Explosive Power of Words last week touched on how words touch me, and prayers are no exception. We have prayers that are handed down for generations that stand the test of time. One of my favorites is The Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
It has helped countless people overcome bad habits, addictions, intense pain and just about anything that is troubling. I know that prayer is directed to God, but isn’t it directed at me as well? It’s always a powerful reminder to me of where I need to focus. It makes sense that if God lives in me it would go both ways.
The magic of prayer to me is that they focus me on the core of what I need. It used to be that I prayed about the things I wanted. And, occasionally, I do ask for what I want. But, as my faith has deepened, I have really embraced the fact that everything I experience will have some gifts. The challenge is being open to that rather than obsessing about the discomfort of the moment and stopping it. So, my prayers are much more about helping me see what I need to see and to be who I need to be.
The beauty of pain is that it forces me to pray more and to pray more intensely. When I was in deep grief after my second marriage failed, I was barely hanging on. I was grieving a lifetime of losses that I had failed to grieve in their moment. I prayed a lot. The Serenity Prayer was my mantra all day long. Sometimes, I would use it as a chant. My Christian counselor recommended that I go to a Catholic bookstore and get some CDs of Gregorian Chants to listen to as I fell asleep and when I woke up in the morning. She said that even though I don’t understand the words, they would change my brain because of their connection to God. That speaks to the metaphysical power of prayer.
I believe prayers create an immediate “tunnel” between me and God–even if I’m not aware of it. I believe God lives in my heart, but I don’t always feel Him there. I see a prayer as a direct connection to God, and it allows me to really rest in that comforting place if only for a minute. Any contact I have with God that is this direct and personal, deeply moves me.
Enjoy this prayer that moved me this morning by Henri Nouwen:
The Sea of Love
Dear Lord, today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life; by your love I am sustained; and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love.
My only real temptation is to doubt in your love, to think of myself as beyond the reach of your love, to remove myself from the healing radiance of your love. To do these things is to move into the darkness of despair.
O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know that there is ebb and flow but that the sea remains the sea. Amen.