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?

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