and Prayers: a reflection on public and private prayers

an essay by Dea Podhajsky

The content in Transfiguration Meditations, although meeting community standards, is the opinion of the author.

When I was a child every night my mother came to my room to listen as I got down on my knees and prayed. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” My mom had me personalize the prayer by naming those for whom I was asking special blessings. I remember those names as well, “God bless Mommy, Daddy, Terri, Grandma Lola, Grandpa Joe, Grandpa Bill, Aunt Belle, Aunt Bessie, Uncle Irvin and Mickey Mantle Poggie, Doggie Dunlap, T-boner the Second. “The last was my dog. This was my first experience with public praying.

Later I learned other prayers that were part of the Methodist tradition, the church our family attended when I was growing up. I learned the Lord’s prayer, the Doxology and my favorite benediction “May the Lord bless you and keep you May the Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; May the lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” As a child I thought the Lord was lifting up his “continents.” My visualization of God at that point was an old man with a white beard the essence of power radiating from him, so it was easy to add to that image God lifting up the continents.

I did not attend church and rarely engaged in public praying for over forty years. When I decided that I needed to return to regular church attendance, I selected the Episcopal Church of Transfiguration There were several denominations that I considered but the Episcopal church’s liturgy was a draw. I found comfort in traditions that had been consistent through thousands of years. My new, favorite, public prayer was the confession. “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves, we are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name.” Asking forgiveness for what we have left undone is a powerful concept.

 

Since shortly after the first shelter in place order was issued a group has met each evening Monday through Friday via Zoom for evening prayers. The group has evolved into a close community. People alternate between being a reader, a responder, and offering specific prayers put forward by our group. I am the only one who does none of these things. I switch my screen to an appropriate virtual background, turn off the lights and breathe. The combination of the power of words that have been said by millions of people all over the world, over many centuries, plus the comfort of the voices of the people in our group brings me a peace that I have come to count on

Private prayers are as important as public prayers. Even when I did not attend church, I prayed. I suspect that people pray privately in a myriad of way. My prayers are internal monologues to which God listens. Usually, God lets me ramble on and work through things that are bothering me. Occasionally she loses patience with my self-indulging prattle and gives me a sign. There are two general types of celestial intervention. The first and most frequent is a song on my shuffle. When I have wallowed in self pity for a little too long suddenly “Let It Go” blasts in my ear. Or if I am feeling discouraged, I might hear the Four Tops

Now if you feel that you can't go on
Because all of your hope is gone
And your life is filled with much confusion
Until happiness is just an illusion
And your world around is crumblin' down
Darling, reach out, come on girl, reach on out for me
Reach out, reach out for me
I'll be there, with a love that will shelter you
I'll be there, with a love that will see you through

The nonmusical signs are animals. I see lots of coyotes on my walks. Generally, they head into the desert as soon as they are aware of my presence. But sometimes they stop in the middle of the road and stare at me. I get closer and closer, and they still stare. I believe God has instructed the coyote to stare at me as a sign. What God wants is not usually clear but the fact that I am in danger of losing my way is.

On my walk I also engage in another type of private prayer. The Superstition Mountains has a famous rock formation named Praying Hands. No matter which of the many routes I take around the neighborhood at some point I have an unobstructed view of the praying hands. Each day when I reach this spot, I stop and say three names. Even though I know God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, I feel called to say the names.

Lent is a time to reflect and the role of prayer in our lives is a good place to begin. DeRay Mckesson, a civil rights activist and host of Pod Save the People, began a recent podcast by asking the audience if God answered all your prayers would the world be a better place or just you?

Next week: promises

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