Monday, August 27, 2007

Trying to Pray...

I was just too tired last night to try to figure out how to describe what I meant by being here and praying or at least trying to. Today, I'm more rested. The day wasn't as full, the place wasn't as new - and so I'm not as physically and mentally exhausted - that's the good news. But, the "trying to pray" thing is still there, so I'll share a little about it.

Don't get me wrong - community prayer at the chapel is beautiful. It's nice to be chanting morning prayer with the community. We've also been at community prayer with the Benedictines who's Archabbey host the seminary - and that is absolutely beautiful. And, the discipline to pray isn't the problem I'm running into. I get my rump to the chapel - I'm even following the appropriate dress code. The problem is tapping into, participating in, the communion and conversation with God.

With all the newness - and I suppose some of the aftershocks of leaving loved ones and a life that I'd become accustomed to behind - my mind keeps wandering during prayer. I'm worried about chanting the right tone, making sure I'm on the right page in our Breviary, and trying to keep the sweat wiped off my face so I don't drip all over the chapel. When I can get my mind off these things, I sometimes quickly find myself contemplating if I know where to go next, and what time to get there. What's happening back home? How are the twins? And on and on.

That's not exactly prayer.

... hrm... or is it?

Just as I sit writing this, I'm reminded of a conversation I had not more than an hour ago with one of the diocesan priests who's in residence here about the different kinds of prayer, and the Benedictine idea of "work as prayer". Don't get me wrong - wiping sweat and figuring out where the next class is isn't some divine and holy work. I know that. But it occurs to me, before I go lashing myself with 12,000 wet noodles that, at least for these "new" and "first" days, that IS my work.

Perhaps the "trick" (as if I could trick myself or God successfully at the heart of things, but I suppose that figure of speech works...) I suppose the trick is to be humble enough to accept that right now, for today, in this space, those are my jobs - and to find a way to offer them with the INTENTION of prayer. Perhaps for right now - or for times that may be like this in the future - I might find a way to offer the act of trying to pray as prayer, right along with all the other that's going on.

Anyway...that's what I meant yesterday when I said I was here and praying, or at least trying to. Pray for me, my friends... or at least try to.


+ Alan said...

"That's not exactly prayer. ... hrm... or is it?"

Hey Alan - thanks for sharing that. I'm sure many have gone through or will go through very similar things. Just a little thought on the above, I think you seemed to have worked it out a bit there. IT IS prayer. You are stepping into a liturgical lifestyle which is a life of prayer, a rhythm. Of course you may or may not feel anything or "get into it" from one day or week to the next, but you're doing it. You are intentionally living it. That will form your insides. It's a long haul. Be encouraged and keep walking in the rhythm. Peace to you.

Melissa said...

I think as you get more settled into your routine, all of these extraneous thoughts will be easier to dismiss. And don't forget that you don't have to be speaking to God to be praying. Some of my most sincere, heartfelt prayers have been silent gestures of supplication, taking a mental account of everything in my mind that I can't stop thinking about and laying it at the foot of the Cross, as if to say, "I'm overwhelmed and in desperate need of your peace, Lord." And it helps. ^_^

Hang in there man, we're all praying for you!

Anonymous said...

Alan..My Prayers & thoughts are with you. Thank you for sharing your journey. One day at a time or one week at a time..I'm reading & praying...Nancy