I am bad at prayer. If that’s even a thing.
Raised secular by good critics of organized religion, prayer inherently feels weird, possibly fake, and at times like a petulant child.
As my friend Burt reminded me today, prayer was something “they” did.
Throughout my spiritual journey I’ve avoided looking too deeply into why many of those feelings arise within me. I have an inkling that a huge part of my struggle is being vulnerable and open to those deep dark icky spots we all have – not my strong suit.
Whether you “officially” pray or not, in Help Thanks Wow Lamott asks us in this short meditative book to consider that we all seek connection, especially to something bigger than ourselves. She calls the divine Phil, sometimes God, and describes wholeheartedly and with humor the need most people feel to reach out in times of need, gratitude or awe.
Lamott sees prayer as a way to ferry across “…the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”
Eventually, it all comes down to story – something I can relate to and love – that we use our words as strength, as compassion, as struggle:
“…if you gently help yourself back to the present moment, you see how life keeps stumbling along and how you may actually find your way through another ordinary or impossible day. Details are being revealed, and they will take you out of yourself, which is heaven, and you will have a story to tell, which is salvation that again adn again saves us, the way Jesus saves some people, or the way sobriety does. Stories to tell or hear – either way, it’s medicine. The Word.”
These prayers seek a way out of mystery and toward freedom. Freedom in a peace that knows that we cannot be certain. Lamott perfectly explains feelings I have most often in nature, and in re-discovering and trying to grow my awe-response to the world I inhabit:
“You begin to feel friendship with your flowering pear tree, an interspecies oneness with it, although we usually keep these thoughts to ourselves, lest they be used against us at the commitment hearings. In fact, you are able to use the word ‘wonder’ again, even feel it, without despair that the New York literati or your atheist friends will find out and send you into exile.
She also inspires me to keep slogging along, and remember that we’re here to live, to touch, to love and to be floored by things – but we have to let ourselves.
“If you say, ‘Well, that’s pretty much what I thought I’d see,’ you are in trouble. At that point, you have to ask yourself why you are even here…When nothing new can get in, that’s death. When oxygen can’t find a way in, you die. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing, and confusing – we had this ll figured out, and now we don’t. New is life.”
And the Church says, Amen.
“…Amen – It is us, lifting up our hope, hate, gratitude, fear, and shame, saying, Boy, do we hope we are right about this God stuff.”