“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I’d look up into the sky – up, up, up – into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer. Well, I’m ready. What am I to say?”
– Anne of Green Gables
* * * * *
For most of my life, my prayers have been pretty simple. As a child, I was taught to humbly call on God with my arms folded, my head bowed, and my eyes closed. I would thank Him for my blessings – my family, friends, home – and ask him for things I needed and wanted – safety for those I love, and the ability to deal with any troubles I was experiencing at that time. When things are good, my prayers are often repetitive and short unfortunately. Sometimes long periods go by where I don’t formally pray much at all except for in the silence of my mind during stressful moments of the day. I’ve always turned to prayer, and I feel that it works, but I’m not always the best at formally turning to God on a day-to-day basis.
When things get hard, however, I find myself pleading on my knees in the darkness, tears streaming down my cheeks. I might curl up on the floor in the middle of the day, the light flooding through the windows, and pray until the pain subsides a little. Or, like last year during heavy periods of grieving, I would often just try to get through each day with more frequent informal prayers here and there.
Recently, though, I’ve tried to take my prayers to a new level with the goal of reaching outside myself and really thinking about the whole world. I wanted to share this with you because it’s something that’s helping me feel connected to strangers and those who I can’t help in any other way.
When I pray now, I try to reach far beyond the people I know and love. While I still say that I’m thankful for those close to me and ask God to protect them, I want to send love to everyone who is troubled and hurting. I want to send love everywhere in the world no matter what. I truly believe that there is power in our thoughts and that somehow they can transfer from one heart to another. One of the beautiful things about experiencing tragedy and grief is that it opens your eyes to many more ways that others suffer, and it reminds you that every person deserves kindness and grace. I also try and thank God not only for the overall beauty and good things in my life, but their details. This reminds me of all the intricate ways this life is beautiful.
A prayer in which I really try to connect with God and the world goes something like this:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for all that you have given me. For my family and friends. I pray for them and for all those who are suffering in the world. I pray for their safety, for their hopes, dreams, and losses. I pray for those who are hungry, cold, sick, and for those who lack companionship. I pray for those who are lonely, lost, and broken. I pray for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness. I pray for those who are held captive by others or addictions that they may find their way out of their struggles. I pray for those who are crying today in our city, our country, and in the world. I pray that you will comfort them.
I pray for our world leaders, and that somehow they can work together. I pray for more peace in this world, that wars can end, and that someday we will have no use for weapons. I pray for the candidates running for president in our country – that they will do what’s right for the people, and that collectively, we can choose the best one. I pray for my enemies, and our country’s enemies, that we can somehow find common ground. I pray that those who harm others will someday understand that they are wrong and confused, and that their hearts will be softened. I pray that those who harm themselves will seek help. I pray for those who are victims of violence, and for their family and friends, and that they will feel comfort and love from others.
I also pray for animals – for those that are surviving in terrible weather conditions – the cold, the heat, the wind, the storms. I pray for the animals who feel stressed because they are starving or in danger.
I also want to thank you for the beauty of this earth. For the sunrises and sunsets, for the mountains, tulips, sunflowers and roses. I’m thankful for the pinks and oranges in the sky, for rain, for snow, and for flowing water. I’m thankful for trails created by others that give me a place to hike, run, and ride my bike. I’m thankful for a home, and pray for those without homes that they might find shelter. I’m thankful for the sound of birds, the call of wild geese, and for moments in nature that remind me love is everywhere. I’m thankful for the sound of laughter, for the stars in the night sky, for the sun and signs of warmer weather.
Please help me that I might be more compassionate – that I can see where I can help – that I can worry less about the things I can’t change and focus on the things I can. Please help me where I am weak.
And I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Those are my longer prayers, but they still only take a few minutes. I’m trying to say them more often and continue adding to them so I don’t forget anyone in this world. I still say shorter prayers in my head throughout the day. I pray when things are tricky, if I’m feeling sad, or if someone I know is hoping for good news – a job offer, a promotion, or a positive outcome at the doctor.
In more recent months, I also learned a Buddhist mantra that calls for the help of Tara, a female Buddha who is a representation of compassion and action, a protector who comes to aid and relieve living beings of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. After learning about Tara and getting advice from a Buddhist teacher, I try to whisper Tara’s mantra three times every whenever I hear police, ambulance and firetruck sirens in hopes those suffering in that situation can be comforted.
“Om tare tuttare ture soha
Om tare tuttare ture soha
Om tare tuttare ture soha”
I often follow up with a short prayer to God as well. I figure it’s not a bad idea to be double-covered by Buddhas and God.
I hope by attempting to pray for everyone and everything more often, there will be a tiny bit more peace in the world and a lot more compassion and gratitude in my soul. As I’ve said many times on this blog before, we’re all in this together after all.