For some time I have been pursuing a more meaningful prayer life.
I can remember when that journey started. At a church we attended, I decided to start a women’s prayer group. I didn’t really know what I was doing — but that’s me. I jump in with both feet and figure things out when I get there.
One evening we had about a dozen women gathered to pray. We decided not to do the sharing beforehand; we simply joined hands in a circle and started praying. Women prayed aloud in short impromptu prayers. During a lull, someone began the Lord’s prayer — “Our Father, who art in heaven” — and we all joined in.
God’s presence was palpable.
What made that particular recitation of the Lord’s prayer so different? I couldn’t tell you.
Maybe we weren’t being robots, as one of my children refers to the unison readings and prayers in church. Maybe those dozen women were doing more than going through motions or hoping their spoken words would sound spiritual. Maybe we were each separately, and then corporately, speaking old words we had learned long ago and were offering them in sincerity to an Almighty God who graced us with His presence.
Whatever it was, it changed me. It set me on a pursuit of a something more — not just in corporate prayer, but in my private prayer, too.
For years now I have been on that quest. I have prayed, read, listened, prayed, meditated, contemplated, read and reread, prayed and re-prayed.
Prayer is as instinctual as a newborn baby’s cry but can be as nuanced and profound as an oratorio sung in Latin.
Growing a prayer life may start like a spider plant — you can’t go wrong — but serious pursuit is more like tending rare orchids.
A couple of weeks ago, my youngest daughter, Laurel, swam the length of Otsego Lake — about 9 miles. She and her friend trained a few weeks before, and, by train, I mean that they swam in the lake 4 or 5 times a week for 2 or 3 weeks.
When my oldest daughter, Helen, swam the lake 15 years earlier, Bud had accompanied her in a kayak. Laurel wanted Helen to be her kayaker, and I thought it appropriate, a sort of passing the baton.
Helen had started her swim at a place called Springfield Landing and ended at Lakefront Park in Cooperstown, swimming from north to south in our long narrow lake. Laurel wanted to swim south to north, ending at Springfield Landing. However, the only time Helen had been to Springfield Landing was when she swam the lake. Laurel had never been there. Laurel’s friend had never been there. Laurel’s friend’s mother, the other kayaker, had never been there.
They started the swim a little after 6 AM, and were making really good time. The day was perfect — warm but not hot, no wind. I drove a few miles up the lake to try to catch sight of them from the shore, and this was the only picture I got:
Springfield Landing is tucked behind a little jog in the shoreline. It’s not obvious, especially from the water. As they neared the end of the lake, Helen said to Laurel, “I think that’s the dock that we’re heading for,” and pointed to a distant spot.
Off they went, only to realize 20 minutes later that it was the wrong dock.
“It must be that one,” Helen said, and pointed to another.
The girls spent the last hour of their swim swimming to wrong dock after wrong dock.
They finally finished, exhausted and frustrated — but I was cheering from the beach, so very proud of them.
When I started writing a post on prayer, I thought it would be a how-to — but I think pursuing a life of prayer is more like swimming Otsego Lake.
You have to just get in and do it.
You may end up at the wrong dock a time or two.
In upcoming posts I’ll share some of what I’ve learned and how I pray.
Not that I’ve arrived, of course.
Plus, I may be heading north to south, and you may prefer south to north. Our journeys won’t be the same, but I promise it’s worth it.