day by day

From Kate Braestrup in Beginner’s Grace. She has this exactly right. Nothing I can add.

Day by day, dear Lord, These things I pray…
To see Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
And to follow Thee more nearly,
Day by day.

The words of the prayer are attributed to Richard of Chichester and adapted by John Farnham. Because I first heard it as a groovy sixties-era flower-child anthem from the musical Godspell, the tune inevitably begins to play in my head along with images of long-haired Jesus freaks with tie-dyed dashikis and dazed smiles. Still, if allowances are made for the epiphenomena, it’s really a damned good prayer.

what prayer does

I've been reading the blog of the Velveteen Rabbi, Rachel Barenblat, for several years now. I've always enjoyed it, but never looked at it as a source for my book selections. But Rachel surprised me last week.

She wrote about the new book by Kate Braestrup, Beginner's Grace.

Braestrup says:

I had thought that conquering the monkey mind and bringing myself into a conscious attentiveness were
prerequisites for prayer, but they are not: they are prayer's result. If I was restless,
dubious, and distracted whenever I'd try to pray, so what? Everyone is!

Rachel goes on to quote Braestrup:

…what prayer, at its best and at our best, has always done — is help us to live consciously, honorably, and compassionately.

I love it! I've downloaded the sample to my Kindle and am looking forward to reading the book.

prayer: what works

I've been seeing my spiritual director, Linda, for several years now. One of the topics we've discussed with some regularity is prayer, and what works for me. I've tried a number of different things, and nothing has quite stuck. It hit me right before our Alaska trip that I needed something tactile. Something tactile. Prayer beads, right? Right! And where could I find prayer beads? Hmmm… I could check Amazon, I guess. But wait. I know where I can find prayer beads. St. John the Divine has a guild called Prayerbeads Simply Divine that makes soaps, salt scrubs, and, yes, prayer beads. Duh.

I told this to Linda in our meeting right after the Alaska trip. She called it a "Holy Spirit moment," because she was thinking about how I might re-experience my Icy Point moment. She was thinking it needed to be something tactile. Prayer beads.

My first Sunday back at St. John's I found a set that I liked.

I know that there are prescribed techniques for using prayer beads, but I see prayer beads in the same way I see cooking: I do what works for me.

What works for me is to work through the beads reading something from the Book of Common Prayer. It doesn't matter what. Sunday morning Rite II, Morning Prayer, the Individual Prayers section, whatever. I've used other sources as well.

I've found something that works, and I am delighted.

prayer and wonder

  To pray is to take notice of the wonder,
to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings,
the divine margin in all attainments.
Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.
It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

—Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Wisdom of Heschel
via inward/outward

prayer is

I often struggle with what prayer is or should be all about, and it is a frequent topic of discussion with my spiritual director. I was therefore struck by this quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel from The Wisdom of Heschel, courtesy of the good folks at inward/outward.

  Prayer clarifies our hope and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations,
the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget.
It is an act of self-purification….
It teaches us what to aspire to, implants in us the ideals we ought to cherish.
Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives,
to let God's will prevail in our affairs;
it is the opening of a window to God in our will,
an effort to make God the Lord of our soul.
We submit our interests to God's concern,
and seek to be allied with what is ultimately right.