Category Archives: prayer

I’d like to teach the world to sing

This article is from the Spring/Summer issue of Reflections magazine, the printed counterpart to this blogsite. Read the entire issue online by clicking here. Read more about prayer by clicking here. Current subscribers should receive their printed magazine by May 11. If you are not receiving the printed magazine and would like to (there is no charge), send your request to barbara.duffield@dwtx.org.

By Marjorie George

Do you remember the Coca Cola tv commercial from the early 70’s that pictured several dozen wholesome young people from around the world — young people from all nationalities and all colors and all ethnic groups – standing on a hilltop and singing together “I’d like to teach the world to sing”? It was an ad that just made you feel good, made you smile, made you want to be nice to your neighbor – better even than Christmas. All over the world, implied the ad, people were being brought together by Coke, their voices joined, their harmony lifting to the heavens.

Now take the Coke bottle out of the kids’ hands, put rosaries in some, Bibles in others, prayer books over there, kids in yarmulkes just here. That’s my image of what happens every day when around the world the faithful are at prayer. As the sun moves across the earth, someone is always approaching his prayer bench and someone is always ending his prayers. The voice of God’s people is ever before him, ever imploring his mercy, ever praising him. Like a river that circles the world, we dip into this stream as we open our prayer books and as we close them. I never need fear that my prayers are not heard; for someone, somewhere, is always at prayer, and my meager stammerings join a throng that is never silenced.

Monastics, monks and nuns around the world, are ever at prayer. In Western culture, we are prone to undervalue this, seeing them as alone at prayer in their cells, producing nothing tangible.

But “the monk departs far from the world not because he hates it, but because he loves it,” explains the website Monachos.net, a site dedicated to monastic and liturgical study.  “In this way he will, through his prayer, help the world more in those matters that are, being humanly impossible, only possible by God’s intervention.” For the sake of the world, monastics separate themselves from the rest of the world in order to pray unceasingly for the world.

Imagine those satellite photos of the earth turning, the light — that we behold as sunrise and sunset – moving with the rotation. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer roll over the earth without ceasing: prayers for mercy, prayers for healing, prayers for God’s intervention in his world, prayers for you and prayers for me.

Apart from this kinship, we can never “pray without ceasing,” as St. Paul admonishes (1 Thessalonians 5.17). As part of it, we are never not in the presence of The Almighty. The song continues, and our voices join in.

Bonus for reading this far:  See the Coke ad on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib-Qiyklq-Q  Read the story of how the ad came to be at http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/heritage/cokelore_hilltop.html.  

Marjorie George is the editor of ReflectionsOnline and Reflections the magazine. Reach her at marjorie.george@dwtx.org.

 

Teach us to Pray

The Spring/Summer 2012 issue of Reflections magazine – on the topic of prayer – is now online. Our favorite writers offer us articles about their perspectives on prayer and talk about their own prayer lives. Click here to get to the entire issue and to our special online presentation.

This article by Bishop Reed is from that issue (under the title of (Still) Practicing Prayer.)

by the Rt. Rev. David Reed

I worry about my prayer life. It’s rarely where I think it ought to be: not as rich, deep, or steady as I’d like it to be. But I don’t worry about it nearly as much as I did before I realized that the disciples’ request to Jesus (on behalf of the group), “Lord, teach us to pray,” is, in itself, a prayer (Luke 11:1). It comes halfway through Luke’s Gospel, so the disciples have been following Jesus for quite a while — observing, learning, questioning, practicing.

They would certainly have been praying with him all along the way. And they more than likely grew up praying the prayers of family and synagogue. They would have prayed the Shema from Deuteronomy daily, like their ancestors had for many generations: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (6:4-5).

So the request — “Teach us to pray”— is a prayer arising out of a prayerful life. It expresses a restlessness and a desire for what so many of us desire: a richer, deeper, and steadier habit of prayer.

“Lord, teach us to pray” is a beautiful and honest prayer which Jesus answers by giving them (and us) the Lord’s Prayer. Like the desperate father’s cry to Jesus for the healing of his tormented boy, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief,” it isn’t a movement from nothing to something, but from something to something even more (Mark 9:24).

The desire to “pray better” — unless it is mere wishful thinking or pious posturing — is itself a heartfelt prayer of faith. It expresses not simply honest longing, but trust that God actually wants us to have deeper conversation with him and that he will answer the prayer, in time and in a way that draws us nearer to him (though it may not be at the time or in the way we would like).

As with anyone we love with whom we desire to be in real and meaningful communication, we need to be paying attention — to the other person, and to the time and place. My wife rarely has a good conversation with me about important things when I am rushing to get ready in the morning, preoccupied with the day ahead; I rarely have a good conversation with her at the end of a long day when she just wants to go to sleep.

Finding time to converse with God is not so much about having “enough” time, but about prioritizing and claiming the “right” time when I can be attentive and less distracted. (Of course, God can and does speak through distractions, too, but that’s another story.)

My personal prayer life is grounded in and shaped by the prayers of our Church. I am able to pray just about anywhere, but if I had not learned (and continue to learn) prayer within a worshipping community, I’m not sure that my prayers would be much more than talking to myself.

But as one of our Anglican forefathers observed, “Until we find God in one place, we will find him in no place. But when we have found him in one place, then we will find him in all places.” So the places and times of real prayer, of conversation with God, are as limitless as God. I am still learning this, still practicing, still praying, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

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The Rt. Rev. David Reed is bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. Respond to this article by leaving a comment below.