Beginning to Pray

My resolutions are all about fitness and money–the usual.

But somehow prayer has inched its way into my new year without my permission. Tonight, for the first time in our married life, I asked Jimmy if he wanted to pray with me before dinner. I hadn’t planned to do this, but it just felt right. He agreed, and I immediately got nervous and said, “But I don’t know who I’m praying to.” I closed my eyes anyways and said what I’d call a “gratitude prayer.” Then Jimmy said one, too. It was really, really nice to simply pause with our eyes closed, hold hands, and say thank you. Then we ate some awesome spaghetti squash with pesto, which I am also thankful for.

Help-Thanks-Wow-by-Anne-Lamott

My prayer didn’t come out of thin air. I started reading Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow this week. I’ve always appreciated Anne Lamott’s open, liberal interpretation of Christianity, but I only appreciated it. I didn’t practice it. And while I still can’t stomach Christianity, I’m starting to “get” prayer, a little bit. Lamott’s premise is that asking for help, expressing gratitude, and seeing awe in the world are the three essential prayers.

So far, I’ve read the “Help” section of this short book. Lamott discusses letting go, praying, and asking for help. She doesn’t insist you ask Jesus or God for help. In fact, she encourages her readers to call “God” whatever works for them: The Grandmothers, The Really Real, Love, Life, or even Howard.

The simplicity and humor of her prayers persuaded me as well: “Hi, Person. Me again. Thank you for my sobriety” or “Please help me to not be such an asshole.” As opposed to those really long prayers we had to say in church during which I always doodled on the back of the program or the really scary nighttime prayer of childhood, “And if I die before I wake…” That’s frightening for a first grader!

In a way, I say these types of simple prayers to myself all the time (Help me to be patient with ______ today), so I thought why not say them with a little more direction and intention.

Now I’m not praying to Jesus, and PLEASE don’t start sending me emails about saving my soul. I’m just starting to pray, and it feels good. Tonight I said thank you for Arthur’s good health (he went to the vet today); thank you for Jimmy; thank you for a good job and a break from that job; thank you for yoga. Nothing grand or eloquent, but I felt a relief and a peace.

That’s all for now. Help. Thanks. Wow. I’ll let you know how it goes.

prayer-candles

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9 thoughts on “Beginning to Pray

  1. Fantastic! Me too! How courageous of you to put it out there. I wrote a Lamottesque reflection on a medical thing and my writing group, mostly made up of agnostic women, bristled. It was the strangest thing because I wasn’t all in your face about things. So anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how this sort of discipline changes things, both in writing and in life.

  2. Amen. Simple, straightforward and honest. Everything has a beginning and for me prayer and inner peace have always gone hand in hand. I’d like to read the book!

  3. Very cool. I think there are a few of us who have resolved this year to practice meditation and/or prayer much more regularly. Thanks for writing this — keep us posted!

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