I often feel like I’m not very good at praying. I can’t think of the words to say to God that are just right, or I don’t take enough time to pray, or my prayers are too self-absorbed and don’t include enough praise and adoration.
Of course, I’m being at least a little ridiculous. I don’t actually think God is concerned with whether I have the words that perfectly articulate what I’m trying to say. I’m pretty sure that it’s more about the attempt than anything else.
Even so, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how I pray.
In my spiritual direction group through Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, we’ve been talking about different types of prayer…meditation, listening prayers, prayers include physical movements, etc. As we’ve talked about these different types of prayer, I’ve realized that I really love corporate prayer. In fact, most of my praying takes place in corporate settings.
One of the great things about Saint Hilda’s House is that we start each day (Monday-Friday) with morning prayer. I’ll be honest: some days it doesn’t seem like a great thing because I’m tired and don’t feel like getting up. But it is, ultimately, really good for me to do. I love having a routine at the beginning of the day, and I like having that time with my housemates and the other parishioners and community members who drop in.
I’ve recently realized that I really love two things about corporate prayer:
1) I find immense beauty in the idea that there are other people praying exactly the same thing I’m praying. In the Episcopal Church, we have what is called the “Daily Office Lectionary” which prescribes scripture lessons for each day. I think that the practice of using a lectionary knits together the Church in a very special way that I really value. There is a comfort in knowing that other people, strangers in far off places, are reading the same lessons, saying the same prayers, and hearing the same collects that I’m reading, saying, and hearing at morning prayer at Christ Church, New Haven. And I love getting on Facebook later in the day and seeing people I know who live across the country commenting about the day’s lections; it helps me feel present with loved ones who are far away.
2) When I feel unable to pray, others are able to pray the words for me. A few weeks ago, I was having a really bad day and didn’t really feel like going to morning prayer. But I went anyway. I sat in the back the entire time and didn’t really say any of the prayers but just listened. And it was comforting to know that, even if I didn’t have the strength to say the words myself, others were still speaking. There is a constancy to this corporate worship that is reassuring.
Of course, corporate prayer isn’t an excuse to get out of doing my own personal prayer. But today, in particular, I am grateful for having a community of people who can pray with and for me.