The Annunciation Trust

to help you discover the God you already know

Tag: prayer

The only 3 prayers you need

Too often prayer is presented as petition.
But the word ‘prayer’ is simply religious jargon for relationship with what we call God.
In truth there are only three prayers.

Prayer is properly not petition, but simply attention to God which is a form of love.

Iris Murdoch, On ‘God’ and ‘Good’ in Existentialists And Mystics

1. “Here I am.”

Inevitably, when I sit and pray in the morning I wish for a new, improved me. I lack kindness to myself. I try to think my way into becoming better. I try to think about how to sort out my life. I try to think about what to do. But thinking is not prayer.

Presence is prayer.

When I say, “Here I am,”
    I say it to myself,
    I say it to Life,
    I say it to the Universe,
    I say it to You,
        You who are always, inevitably present
        in and through and around…

When I say, “Here I am,” God, I mean,
    I don’t know what You are,
        and
    I don’t know what I am,
        but,
                nevertheless,
    “Here I am.”

This, I reckon, is enough.
Everything else is baroque.

This is presence.
    When all is said and done,
        “I just want to be with You.”

2. “Thank you.”

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…

American Beauty

Gratitude is prayer.

I might not have lived.
I am held alive by conditions I do not control.
One day,
    when the conditions change,
        I will cease to live.
Inspire…
    When I am present I feel this in this body,
        this breath.
    When I breathe there is gratitude.
Expire…
“Thank You.”

there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted

Mary Oliver, Morning Poem, from Dream Work, p. 6

3. “Help me.”

I am so distant from the hope of myself.

Mary Oliver, When I am among the treesfrom Thirst

Kindness is prayer.

Notwithstanding,
I search outside myself for
    stimulation,
    satisfaction,
    solidity.
I am compromised,
    inordinately attached,
        addicted.
I lack integrity.
My heart is defended.
I cannot trust.
I fail to live.

Help me.
Please free me from
    all
that comes between me and You.


The point of prayer is not petition. It is the recognition of my need. When I am beyond redemption it (re)connects me with You.


Prayer is coming to God empty-handed, undefended, indigent – not that you are without worth, but your worth has nothing to do with you. Prayer involves vulnerability. We have to come as the glorious, fragile, messy, inadequate people we are. Needy. Unable to sort out our lives.

These three prayers help me to be present and connected even in my struggles. They are a kindness to myself. They require so little from me, which is a relief.

What is the prayer you need?

Follow this with:

[Syndicated from thisbody.info.]

An affirming source (5): Relationship

[See Parts 1234, & inter-mission]

Our human identity therefore becomes one in which we both acknowledge in prayer this dependence [upon God] and respond to the gift that sets up not only our being but our renewed being in Christ; and in acknowledging that dependence we are empowered to ‘do the work of God’.

Rowan Williams: Being Human, p.72

“I want to know what God wants me to do with my life.”

People often seek spiritual direction with this question uppermost in their minds. Spiritual direction is the right place to ask this question. Spiritual directors have training in discernment, and it is a question we ask ourselves frequently. My contention is that this is not the right place to start.

Half a life-time ago I was a computer programmer writing in COBOL and Fortran on Hewlett Packard and Norsk Data mainframes. My favourite part of the job was being given a program to write from scratch. I loved mapping out the structure, solving the problems, writing the code, and fixing the inevitable bugs. I was good at it. Computer programming can be a creative process that includes writing code that is elegant, spare, attractive and clear on the page or screen, written in a way that makes it easy to understand and maintain by those who come after – although I strongly doubt that anything I wrote back in the 80’s is still in use today. I had a boss, Richard, who had many more years’ experience than I, who I respected and liked very much. He had some quirks, one of which was quietly to say, “Caution,” when I was about to press a wrong key. Another was to ask, “What is the real question?”, when I came to him wanting to know how to utilise an aspect of computer technology with which I was unfamiliar. He rightly intuited that I had come up with what I thought was a neat solution to a problem, and he wanted to know what the problem was so that he could offer other suggestions from his greater experience. Although this pricked my fragile ego, because he always had better solutions and he was a great exponent of Occam’s razor, I learnt a lot from him in this way.

Now, when someone comes to me and says, “I want to know what God wants me to do with my life,” I find myself wanting to say, “Caution,” and ask, “What is the real question?”

The question as posed above is predicated on “yielding … to alien will”. God is out there somewhere, holding (and possibly withholding) vital information about my life and His/Her wishes, and I want to know what They want me to do. This is often the way human relationships work: we need to find out what the government, the boss, the teacher, the parent, the lover wants us to do so we can do it – or assess the risks of non-compliance. I don’t believe this is how it works with God. It is crucial to see that God is not like people (perhaps is no-thingat all) or we start from the wrong principle.

God is not like a person who simply issues a command that I can follow (or not, as the fancy takes me). Mostly, we do not get unambiguous communication directing us to one action or another. And mostly, my experience is that God’s ‘communication’ is much more likely to be an invitation into deeper relationship than a request to attend to a task or a project.

If the first question I ask God is, “What shall I do?”, it is quite likely the wrong question. It is starting from the wrong place and setting off on the wrong tack. I have to have some knowledge of God before I can know what God wants. (A parallel: I have to have some knowledge of myself before I know what I want.) With God the real question is, “Who are You?”, and, correspondingly, “Who am I?” Many enterprises turn awry because this foundation is not solid.

I’m reminded of the lyric from the song “Day by day” in Godspell:

To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by day.

Or as Ignatius puts it,

… ask for an interior knowledge of the Lord, who has become human for me, that I may better love and follow him.

The Spiritual Exercises, 104

Only when I have some first-hand knowledge of God can I know and trust what God wants. Only when I come to know God as “an affirming source”, calling me momently into being with a cosmic “Yes”, can I trust God without fear, knowing that God’s affirmation is for my one wild and precious life and pertains whether I ‘comply’ or not.

We are creatures. That is to say, we have been brought into being not by our own volition. We do not know who we are. We do not know what life is about. Oftentimes we do not know what we want or what we should do. We are not the authors of our lives. This is the condition of human being. We grow up under the gaze of human others (individual and corporate) whose desires shape our days, often in ways that limit and misdirect us. The affirming source, the One that likes to say “Yes”, offers another gaze under which we come to the original dream of ourselves and the inklings of the only thing we can do with our lives.

[Coming soon: Final part.]


Follow this post with further reading:

[Syndicated from thisbody.info.]

© 2019 The Annunciation Trust Registered Charity 1017702

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: