The Nature of Prayer
What is the nature of prayer?
There are times I think of prayers like smoke. I love incense for reminding me of this -- and I see our prayers leap through the burning coals onto the incense smoke stream and get wafted upward as they disperse into the sky. So maybe it is that our prayers rise and granulate, staying aloft like cloud-cover, bridging that space between heaven and earth, like a smokey grout between levels of the universe. I see photos of the Milky Way taken from satellites and imagine that the smokey bits, the washes of light between stars, are the gathered prayers of us all, waiting in the irridescence of God's celestial reading room.
Then there are times I think prayers are like telephone calls. It is mysterious to me how I can speak into my telephone and hear someone a thousand miles away talking back at me. Yet, it happens. When I was Catholic, I'd imagine that my prayers were a telephone call to a saint. They could handle direct communication. Yet I also felt that sometimes my prayers would get sidelined to an answering machine, or a pile of heavenly "While You Were Out" message slips. There are so many people with needs greater than mine, urgencies far more urgent than mine. So I'd call on saint after saint, littering the clouds with message slips, hoping one would get noticed and that I hadn't overdone my requests for intercession. The saints were, after all, God's main messenger service.
But sometimes prayer seems like water, fluid and wild as a brook that careens down a mountainside. There is no stopping it, as it just blurts out of rocks and rills and tumbles all around the feet of God, a messy but sinceree pool of intention, flawed but shining in the sun. All of our voices merge and flow into one moment of sparkle at his feet, having gathered momentum as we flew down the hillside to him, eager and full of hope.
Yet, in Spring I am reminded that prayer is like earth, the foundation from which growth happens, the richly nurtured ground of things, the basic, warm nourishing soil of our lives. Prayer is where we work and toil, hoping that something will later blossom and grow. Prayer is, perhaps, the garden in which we attempt to grow our lives in a way that will bring God pleasure.
And then I dream, and in the silence of unfettered sleep I feel the hand of God on my heart, knowing that He has come as He always comes, to feel my prayers, and to take them into His own heart.