prayer

red_house2.jpg
house and sky, Canon Digital Rebel

Morning Poem

Every morning
the world
is created.
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches —
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
alighting everywhere.
And if your spirit
carries within it
the thorn
that is heavier than lead —
if it’s all you can do
to keep on trudging —
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted —
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
lavishly,
every morning,
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
. . . . . . . . . ?
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

“Whether or not you have ever dared to pray…” I love that line. People have asked me about my religious beliefs and although they are not totally formulated, nor do they rest with any one particular team, they are passionate and deep.

I am Jewish, but often choose to sit at a progressive Methodist church called Glide on Sundays. {I actually sit with two of my dear friends who are also Jewish. We call ourselves the Jews in the Pews!} I do this for a lot of reasons. I go because the gospel music there stirs my heart and makes me feel holy. I go because sometimes it’s so beautiful, tears pour down my face {come to think of it, every time I go it has this effect} and other times it makes me stand up and shake my booty.

I go because it gets me present, it gets me down in the moment, and it gets me in touch with my spirit. I go because we all need a space to pray and to pray in community is a powerful thing.

I also go because it is raucous there. There is cheering and shouting from the pews when the music particularly moves us. You’ll hear a “Right on!” or “Hallelujah!” when the speaker says something that inspires us. I hear whoops of joy, I hear laughter, and I see a beautiful cross section of San Francisco seated with me. Every race, every age, every sexual orientation, every class, every religion, is welcome and celebrated there. I love looking at the constellation of faces in the choir and seeing the diversity there. This is what San Francisco is all about and one of the reasons I choose to be here. I love being part of a place that is so inclusive.

Besides the incredible people who speak there regularly, there are also special guests of poets, teenagers from the community sharing their stories, and even the occasional rockstar. I have heard Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Sharon Stone speak there. Lately, I have been most inspired by a new minister named Karen Junker.

But back to that line about daring to pray. I’ve never identified with a particular religion, but prayer in some form has always resonated for me. I think I’ve been praying for a long time and calling it other things. ‘Manifesting’, ‘asking the universe for help’, ‘sending out good energy’. All the lists I’ve ever written that have gone into magic boxes are prayers. All of those paintings done in a fury of emotion, all of those mornings spent writing, all of those drawings– deep prayers. Or the time I wrote that letter, the one that was so difficult to write, and afterwards I dropped it into the fire. A prayer of letting go.

There is a line in a Rumi poem that I’ve always loved, “There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”

Perhaps you pick up a musical instrument or sing in the shower, maybe you take your dog to the puppy park and bask in the joy of unconditional dog love, maybe you hike in the woods, practice yoga or volunteer at the soup kitchen. Maybe you salsa dance into the wee hours of the night.

This is all worship. This is all prayer. Laughter is prayer and also tears. I think prayer is about honoring life, about being alive, about worshiping our own aliveness in the world & feeling a connection to spirit and to others.
…….

How do you pray?

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

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35 Comments

  1. Kate

    Thank you, Andrea. That was a beautiful post. Somehow you are in my brain or something. I needed to hear this. I think yoga is how I pray. I think, yes, playing with my tiny puppy is how I pray. Holding my boyfriend in a tight hug is how I pray. I think you are so right. There IS a 1000 ways to pray.

  2. Arin

    I pray at Glide, too. I also feel like I am praying when I cook–an abundant meal for friends or even a simple, comforting dinner to share with my husband on a rainy night.
    A soul-warming post. Thank you, Andrea!

  3. jan

    This is your best posting yet.
    As the daughter of a now retired minister (as well as having had two grandfathers and two uncles and aunts who were ministers and missionaries), as one who doesn’t “worship” or belong to any church and feels real guilt from the lack of religious education my two kids are receiving — it is a good reminder of how powerful and affirming my own personal faith is. I don’t describe it or defend its amorphous quality (in the past I felt I might “have to”), but it works for me. I see the presence of something powerful mostly in nature, I feel it when I talk to God, which is how I pray.
    Sometimes I pray in the evening when I turn out the light because I’m so grateful to be tired and happy and in bed; a month ago I prayed because I was worn out with concern over the possibility that my husband had lung cancer. That evening I heard a voice say “You guys are going to get through this ok”. I KNOW how hokey it sounds. I know I was at peace afterwards. After a long-awaited visit to Johns Hopkins Hospital yesterday, we learned that he will have to have surgery, but he will recover and it isn’t cancer.
    Thanks for opening this door — prayer is all the things you mentioned and more, not just a ritual, not always “holy”.

  4. amy

    you sure know how to make a girl brim with emotion through the tenderness in today’s post.
    i love this question — how do you pray?
    i send out a prayer before my feet hit the coolness of my satillo tile in the morning…when last nights dreams are still tangled in my hair and i am sleepy and fresh.
    i pray each morning as i pick up my paintbrush and stare at the clean, white canvas before me, in the holy hours of morning before I plod off to my (temporary) 8 to 5 gig.
    i pray as i walk my sweet ol’ dog Talia every evening.
    i pray each time i see the grand mountains of Tucson.
    i repeat a string of affirmations as I drive into the city for work….”I am doing work I love and I am well paid for it.” “I am an artist whose work is in demand.”
    i created a visual “manifesting” board just last week — and am comforted by the mix of colors, images and words.
    Each day, each moment, lends the opportunity for prayer.

  5. Michelle

    Oh Andrea, thank you! That was beautiful. I needed to hear it. As the grandaughter of a very conservative Southern Baptist minister it has been so difficult to find my own way, to own my faith. My family disagrees with how I have chosen to find my own way because it has included making my own decisions about the way I live my life and choosing not to attend church (however if I lived in San Fransisco instead of my small West Texas town I would probably join you at Glide.) My family worries, and I do too, about my two year old son. How will he find God (and sadly, more importantly to them, how will he find Jesus) without church. I have chosen to trust his spirit. I trust He’ll find it just as I have every time I hold him, every time I sceam the words to a Bruce Springsteen song, every time I read poetry by Mary Oliver, Rumi, Naomi Shahib Nye, and so many others, every morning I take my morning walk, every time I kneel in the hundred ways that are right for me. Another of my favorite reminders is the children’s book Old Turtle. It is my favorite and is what I want to teach my son about God. Thank you for affirming my struggle and blessing my journey. I bless yours as well!

  6. Darcie

    My husband is a minister and so I’m always hearing people’s ideas about the Right Way to pray–as if there’s a formula or specific, pre-approved words one should use. A prayer is a conversation with God. To me, that sounds simple, doable. To others, it sounds complicated–a setup for failure. I’m going through a difficult time because my dad has suffered a lot as a result of a recent heart attack. I’m filled with fear and haven’t known what to pray. Some days, all I can do is say, “Lord. Lord.” I’m just asking for God’s presence and believing–or hoping–that God knows the cry of my heart even before I do. What I love is that I can talk to God even when I’m walking in the produce department at Safeway. I do believe that God is “closer than breath” and that there is tremendous power in prayer–especially when people pray for and with each other.
    Andrea, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject!

  7. Courtney

    Andrea,
    Didn’t know if you knew today is the National Day of Prayer, but this is an easy way to pray.
    Hold your hand up with fingers spread and thumb toward you.
    The 5 Finger Prayer
    1. Thumb
    Your thumb is nearest to you.
    So begin your prayers by praying for those closest to you.
    They are the easiest to remember.
    To pray for our loved ones is, as C.S. Lewis once said, a ”sweet
    duty”.
    2. Pointing finger
    The next finger is the pointing finger.
    Pray for those who teach, instruct and heal.
    This includes teachers, doctors, and ministers.
    They need support and wisdom in pointing others in the right direction.
    Keep them in your prayers.
    3. Tallest finger
    The next finger is the tallest finger.
    It reminds us of our leaders.
    Pray for the president, leaders in business and industry, and
    administrators.
    These people shape our nation and guide public opinion.
    They need God’s guidance.
    4. Ring finger
    The fourth finger is our ring finger.
    Surprising to many is fact that this is our weakest finger;
    as any piano teacher will testify.
    It should remind us to pray for those who are weak, in trouble or in
    pain.
    They need your prayers day and night.
    You cannot pray too much for them.
    5. Little finger
    And lastly comes our little finger; the smallest finger of all
    which is where we should place ourselves in relation to God and others.
    As the Bible says, ”the least shall be the greatest among you.”
    Your pinky should remind you to pray for yourself.
    By the time you have prayed for the other four groups,
    your own needs will be put into proper perspective
    and you will be able to pray for yourself more effectively.
    Remember to give thanks in all things and ask forgiveness.
    And pray to do Gods will always!

  8. Jen

    I pray by talking to my grandma who passed away two years ago!!

  9. Jodi

    Prayer for me is a constant coversation with God through Jesus. I pray for others, for my own growth, for my family especially and my ability to be a good mom. I pray for patience. I pray for good health and safety. I pray on my knees when I need to bow, I pray in the car, in bed, while I’m doing dishes. Constantly. The Bible says Pray without Ceasing. So I do!

  10. Marilyn

    Amen, fellow Glide sister girl. 🙂 I don’t have any sort of formal praying routine or ritual. Sometimes it takes the form of asking for angel protection when I embark on journeys or find myself in a situation where physical safety feels a tad shaky. Often it’s ‘holding a good thought’ for someone. My most vivid moments that FEEL like prayer are actually passive, rather than active, moments. Often what FEELS most like prayer (to ME) happens not when I’m asking for something, or repeating an affirmation of what I dream of and would like to manifest, but in a completely unexpected moment when I feel touched by grace. When I feel this strange sense of contentment wash over me…as if in that moment, everything within is OKAY. There’s an old gospel song that talks about “God is right on time”…I always take that to mean that when I least expect it, I’ll be graced with one of those moments…in answer to my prayers…not specifically, but universally…because, really, ALL of it is okay. And maybe, down deep, that’s really what I pray for…that acceptance.

  11. kristen

    i pray to God:)
    i’m glad you like your church,it sounds cool.

  12. Kate

    i go back to bed in the middle of a friday afternoon and read fiction between naps.

  13. Brian

    Andrea
    Great thoughts. Thanks for being so candid. I think prayer can become a barrier at times, to actually communicating with God–because of spiritual baggage. It’s not about the right words or magic phrases–it’s about our hearts connecting to God in a rich and meaningful expression…Art, thoughts, play, song, life details and, yes, words at times–but not always. As for Glide–every church should be a mosaic–a representation of God’s love for all–but many times it just becomes God’s love for “us” and people like us. But I’m sure God knows this…

  14. Laura

    I pray through taking walks, especially in the woods or by water sparkling in the sunlight. I pray to the moon when I see her in the sky. I pray by gardening and turning weeds into compost. I pray through dance and ritual and talking with friends.

  15. Beth

    Kate, thanks for your comment… I hadn’t thought about it before, but I think when I hug my husband tight, I too am praying. Great insight.

  16. celisa

    i pray by trying to see the possiblities and potentials of every situation…every person…every bad or good thing that comes my way. i pray by constantly trying to be a better person…by being aware of my surroundings…by always trying to love better…to release the negative in myself and in my life. i pray by talking to Life…to telling it what i want and trying to live as fully and as well as i can. I tell Life that i will try to embrace it more and be more “alive” in my day to day functionings. i pray with every thing i do in life…to the simplest of things, such as doing laundry, shaving my legs, or the harder tasks like grieving a loved one, trying to understand why anxiety plagues me. i pray by collecting beautiful things…inspiring clippings…oh there are so many ways in which i pray.
    which rumi poem is that? i just got a book of rumi poems today.

  17. susan@visual-voice.net

    I think your blog is an exquisite prayer, and visiting it each day means I get to pray with you. Amen.

  18. Julia

    You are sooo…right on Andrea. There are so many ways to pray. I feel so connected to God and the universe in so many everyday things. When I hug my daughter or tuck her into bed, when I have the privledge everyday of teaching special needs children, When I breathe deep and feel the life force within me, when I am taking my daily walk or run and have that internal dialog with God and myself…sort of a walking meditation thing going….There are so many pathways to the divine, or God, or enlightenment,or whatever a person believes in. My own Jewish grandmother used to say, “the roads are many, but the destination is the same.” Thank you for this inspiring, and insightful post!! 🙂

  19. Deanna

    I was told by a very wise friend some time ago to believe in angels. To ask them for what ever you desire. Not a new car, money, or meanial things, but things you really want.
    I had my fortune told at the beginning of this journey I am taking of doing my own thing, starting my own business, and the reader said I have a miracle in my future. I have been asking the angels to show it to me, when I am ready. They are there, if you really believe and let them in, they will help. But you have to let them.
    I also believe in the monks’ mantra of the universe providing, and not to ever waste one moment worrying about something you can’t control.
    With both of these things I realize the miracle is me, letting go, and just being me. Making it work.
    Thanks Andrea for giving so much, and so many kind words you have gave to me. I look forward to every moment here, and how you give us insight to grow, just a little each day.
    Deanna

  20. Piper

    When I was little I used to recited three standard, formal prayers every night before going to bed. Sometimes I would specifically ask for help for myself or other people. As I’ve gotten older, my formal prayers have decreased a bit but now I have more spontaneous prayers. My new prayers are just catching moments when I am supremely happy and then closing my eyes and thinking, “Thank you”. I heard a quote somewhere that people talk to God a lot when things are going badly but generally ignore him/her when things are going well, so I am trying to send out my gratitude, to make God aware that I truly am grateful for everything. Of course, I still talk to God when I am upset but I treat him/her like a confident, picture him/her as more of a sturdy shoulder to cry on than the root of my misery. Huh, I just realized that even though the way I pray has changed, my relationship with God hasn’t, except perhaps it feels even stronger.

  21. sharon

    Before I lift my head from the pillow each morning, I make an effort to pray this intention:
    “Dear (Lord, God, Goddess, Buddha, Krishna…)
    Help me to live this day quietly, easily
    To lean upon thy strength trustfully, restfully
    To wait for the unfolding of thy will patiently, serenely
    To face tomorrow confidently, courageously”
    Amen!

  22. Lu

    Each morning I thank God for another day to get it right and waking me.
    I have an ongoing conversation throughout the day that he will strengthen me to deal with some of the crazy people I work with and encounter as I move through the day.
    And, I pray at night befroe going to bed for myself, family, friends and those who asked me to remember them in prayer.

  23. carrster

    My prayers come in long walks in the woods – examining the detail and beauty that surrounds us in everyt living thing. They come when I stand on the hill and have an incredible vista in front of me, fresh air in my lungs and my other half beside me. This morning they came with bright sunshine and tons of birds singing away in the happiness of a new (warm) day.
    Thank you, Andrea, for being so inspiring and allowing us all to share these thoughts that probably otherwise would remain within. It’s a great way to start the day.

  24. Beastmomma

    I pray through my actions of trying to do the best I can and being thankful and present.

  25. amanda

    Courteney, I loved your Five Fingered Prayer! Carolina, who teaches tribal bellydance at fat chance bellydance in San Francisco, starts her classes with a movement prayer.
    I don’t remember it *exactly*, but it goes like this:
    You start in a crouching position, extend your arms out to bless your fellow dancers,
    You touch the floor to bless the earth and ground you dance upon,
    Put hands together and bless your teachers,
    Touch forehead to bless your own spirit.
    It’s a lovely way to begin to dance!

  26. Pamela

    Yesterday was Mary Oliver day for me. She appeared twice in a writing class (students quoting from her poetry), and I saw the lovely poem here. I love those universal triplicates!
    Reading this wonderful celebration of spirituality, I realized how little I think about worship these days–after a lifetime of looking for the right “way.” While I feel life forces, chi’s if you will, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with patriarchally represented God-figures.
    Nevertheless, I feel I’m missing something. I still turn to the classical idea of God everytime I find myself in crisis, or even just in stress.
    How do I pray? I think it is by continually reaching outward to the human community. I have small epiphanies when I am out in nature or caring for my dogs. Back in the day when I rode horses, I found the communion very Zen. When I practice yoga (not often enough)I find myself seeking the thread that binds us all … I guess that’s praying.

  27. Pat

    Thank you for your thought-provoking question. It is my belief that every thought is a prayer – for good or for ill. It is my responsibility, therefore, to maintain thoughts that are positive and uplifting in nature. I also believe every action is a prayer – again, for good or for ill. And so my thoughts and my deeds are formed knowing I am offering my thoughts/prayers and deeds/worship to Great Spirit every moment of my life.
    Do I forget and have depressing (or ‘negative’) thoughts? Yes, but not for long. I return to the belief that all is good, and all will be well. I remember to trust the goodness of the universe and the Spirit who created all.

  28. Karen

    I’ve always done a traditional prayer of thanks at the end of each day, as well as a petition to be better person the following day…
    …but lately? Since my daughter was born?
    Whenever I hold her and look deeply in her eyes, and she smiles back, I say a prayer of the deepest, deepest gratitude.

  29. Ilsa

    Hiking in Henry Cowell State Park in Santa Cruz and/or whispering “hi” to bugs, squirrels and wild birds.

  30. jenn

    Andrea,
    what a great post… I love it.
    I just came back from this trip with my dad. I went to North and South Carolina with him trying to put together the puzzle of our genealogy. We were driving in the mountains outside of Asheville, N.C. and everytime I looked out my window I was amazed at how beautiful the green covered mountains were. So much green. So many trees. I made a point to say thank you each time I found myself in awe.
    My new office at home has two high windows high above my desk. Each morning when I am getting ready to start work waiting for the computer to load up I sit and watch the sky and the treee outside my window. This time has become very special to me. I thank God for the beauty all around me. I ask God to help me be my best possible me an to live to my full potential. I’ve noticed that I look forward to this time of my day more than ever.
    When I play wiht my animals I tell them thank you for coming into my life. Then I tell them I love them. I think this prayer too, though I had never really thought of it that way.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s really had me thinking.
    Jenn

  31. doug

    “Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, and why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. Valor pleases you, so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, the HELL with you!”
    -Conan-
    Now thats a prayer my friends.

  32. Sophie

    Walking to work in the late afternoons.
    Lying in bed before I fall asleep.
    Driving home with friends late at night with the music turned up and the windows wound down.

  33. Pinto

    I debated posting a comment, putting my thoughts where anyone could read them. But I feel as though I cannot sit quietly this time, as I usually do.
    I guess I want to say thankyou. What you wrote left me crying, and near speechless. Maybe it’s the memories, maybe it’s the moment of knowing someone understands.
    I’m not the devout Christian my family would have liked me to be. I can’t be. I don’t agree with everything they say and won’t pretend to. I have my very unique views that I have yet to find a name for. But not one of them have been able to understand when I try to tell them that a silent moment for me alone in the wilderness is closer to the spirit (or God or creator, or whatever one will call this power) than any concrete or wooden man made structure. As you said, Praying. When I’m running through a field, when I’m diving into a lake, when I’m dancing in ocean waves. That is worship. Most people have given me worried or confused looks. Some have tried to correct me and told me I should be going to church and praying in what I feel is a forced environment. A few people have said they understand, but I’ve never known how many actually do. But what you wrote, and what others have said in response, I think I needed to hear all of it. I feel less alone.
    memories.
    One of the most precious memories of spoken word.
    I am lucky to be alive. A few years ago I reacted to a shot and had things been timed just seconds differently, I would not be here now. I spent some time in the hospital and I thought the part that would mean the most is that I was alive.
    That wasn’t it though. My best friend, boyfriend at the time, did not identify with any religion. He did not acknowledge anything he did as prayer. But he told me a couple weeks later that when my parents called and told him what happened, he prayed for me. The only thoughts or feelings he’d ever identified as prayer in his entire life, were for me.
    I don’t know which changed me more. The moment I knew I would live, or the words he spoke.
    Love and Safe Journeys
    Pinto

  34. Lori

    Wow, I am Jewish too.. and I sit in churches with my friends and love to hear the music.
    my best friend is missionary baptist.. sings in the choir and the feeling i get there is beatiful.
    I hope you had a wonderful Pesach if you celebrated.

  35. Jennifer

    How do you pray or let go of the crappy co-worker that’s mean for the sake of being mean, and doesn’t care? I know that by thinking about it you give that person a hold over you, but I just can’t help it. Maybe the next time a group of us sees her in the hallway we can all point and laugh, you think?

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