By FRANCIS REMKIEWICZ
There is a popular song from 1965 entitled The Soft Parade. The opening lyrics go something like this:
“When I was back there in Seminary School
There was a person there
Who put forth the proposition
That you can petition the Lord with prayer.
… Petition the Lord with prayer
Petition the Lord with prayer
You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!”
In 1965 I was 15 years old. I am now 73 years old and I am about to tell you just how wrong those lyrics, written by the group, The Doors, are. There is not a doubt in my mind that you can not only petition the Lord with prayer but that the Lord will answer you.
Allow me to back this up and start once again.
What exactly is prayer? If I pray, will God answer me? How do I pray? Do I need a book, a Bible, or the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius? How many people do I need to pray? If I do not know how to pray, then what? To whom do I pray? There seems to be an infinite number of questions about prayer. I want to take on a few of those questions I consider most important. I believe in a Trinitarian God. Three persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I hope that sets the table for what is to follow.
We are going to talk about God the creator of the universe. The Supreme Being. This is the being that knows all, sees all, and is all. This is a God that is just, merciful, compassionate, and all loving. This is a God that you can petition, and he will deliver. At the same time this is a God of justice, a God of consequences, and yes, a God that is demanding. But this is a God that will walk with you. A God that will talk with you and a God who patiently waits for us to talk with him.
Aha! We have just hit upon one definition of prayer. Prayer is talking to God. Yes, it is just that simple. We can just open up a prayer that is a conversation by saying,” Hi God, this is Frank.”
There is an old church song that the refrain is “And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own.”
In a garden, in your home, on the beach or in the mountains or wherever you are you can talk to God, and you are praying. God may be demanding in many ways but when it comes to praying God is not fussy. God is ready to talk whenever and wherever you are. One does not need any book, Bible, or Meditation to talk to God. Just a desire and to talk and then then an opening.
There is the formal or ritualistic prayer. Examples abound. One example is Muslims pray five times a day. God ordered Muslims to pray at five set times of day: Salat al-fajr: dawn, before sunrise, Salat al-zuhr: midday, after the sun passes its highest, Salat al-'asr: the late part of the afternoon, Salat al-maghrib: just after sunset, and Salat al-'isha: between sunset and midnight. The Roman Catholics also pray daily using what was once known as a Breviary. I attended seminary and all seminarians prayed Matins, Laud, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and, Compline. These daily prayers were recited about every three hours apart beginning at around 1 or 2 a.m. and ending with Compline around 10 or 11 p.m. Many mainline Protestant churches such as mine (Methodist) have some form of daily office. Judaism also has a form of daily prayer called Chabad. All these reflect a more formal way of reserving hours of the day for God. While it is a good way to formalize your prayer routine most of us quite honestly do not find the time (shame on us) to set apart the time to pray. The habit I am developing is Sunday worship and then morning prayer on Wednesday at 10 a.m. with the community at Belmare Senior Living and an evening prayer at Oakdale Community United Methodist Church at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday as well.
But there are other ways to pray. One of the most common is the spontaneous prayer. At the birth of a child, in an automobile accident, a sudden tragedy such as the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. There is an old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. We could probably verify that by talking to a Ukrainian or a Russian. The times of pure joy or tragic loss are very common times to pray.
I think the next question should be, will God speak to me? You bet he will. God is not bashful. In fact, on occasion God might even open the conversation. It sort of depends on what is going on in your life and what God wants you to know at any given moment. God can be pretty direct sometimes. In the book of Psalms there is a phrase that says “be still and know that I am God.” One sure way to hear God’s voice is to sit quietly in a calm/peaceful setting, focus on the Creator, and listen to what God has to say to you. Sometimes in the very late evening or the very earlier hours I will be sitting in my backyard, and I can discern a voice.
Another way to pray is to use a formula of sorts. It is commonly referred to as the ACTS method of praying. You can create your own prayer by including Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. Adoration is just as it says. We adore the divine creator who made all things, is all knowing, all powerful, and, all loving. Confession is the act of telling God that you are a sinner but you are bent on repenting. That is, yes, we all sin from time to time but we make amends and start again, with God’s help. Thanksgiving is a way of giving God his due for all the things he gives to us like family, friends, good health, employment, even the very air we breathe and the ability to breathe it. And then Supplication. What do you want God to do for you. Our God is a loving father who wants the best for us. But like moms and dads, God likes to be asked. How else would God know what we want? The best way then is the most direct way is to flat out ask for it.
And then the Apostle Paul, in the first book of Thessalonians writes this: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What this means is to give everything you are and everything you do to God through prayer. We cannot do what the monks do with every hour of everyday spent in prayer. But what we can do is throughout the day offer those everyday experiences to God. Such short prayers as “God, I hate doing excel spreadsheets, give me the patience to get through this task and do it well.” Or, “Lord, help me to be kind to this stranger I am about to meet.” Or “Heavenly Father, I give thanks to you for the food I am about to eat.” Simple, quick and easy, from the heart prayers.
If you feel so inclined on Wednesday mornings, we have a “Morning Moment”. This is about 45 minutes of meditations and music held at 10 a.m. at Belmare Senior Living Center at 1450 W. F St., Oakdale. We also have “Commuter Comfort” which is about 45 minutes of prayer and music at 5:30 p.m. at Oakdale Community Methodist Church at 1480 Poplar in Oakdale.
May God’s blessings be upon you this day and always.
Francis (Frank) Remkiewicz is an area resident and contributes a monthly column focused primarily on faith and religion. He can be reached at email@example.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.