~Conversation with Joyce Cummings~
When Leslie asked a month ago if I would be willing to write a reflection for the newsletter, I was happy to say yes. She told me the lectionary for the day would be about prayer so I could write about that or if I was uncomfortable writing about prayer I could write anything I wanted. Well, I thought writing about prayer would be a slam dunk. Of course I could write about prayer. Even though I start and end every day with some prayer, I have not prayed as much in the last five years as I have in the last five months so it would be very easy to put a few paragraphs together. I was VERY WRONG.
The more I worked on pulling together several coherent paragraphs, the more my brain kept skipping around. I could not concentrate and one day I said to myself, “your brain is scattershot.” I didn’t even know if that was a real word, but it kept coming back to me. Finally, I asked Bill if scattershot was a word and explained my dilemma to him. He said he thought it was a word, he understood what I was thinking, and encouraged me to just go with it and write about my scattershot prayerful thinking.
By stark coincidence, later that day, I saw the word scattershot printed in two very different places. First, the New York Times in an article about the government’s scattershot approach to the pandemic. Later in the book VARINA, an historical novel about Jefferson Davis’s wife. The author, Charles Frazier, described “brilliant scattershot letters, often on scraps of mismatched paper” Seeing that word twice within in a few hours of my conversation with Bill validated my use of the word. My thoughts and words are not brilliant but they are a scattered mismatched approach to prayer.
Here are a few of my scattershot prayer thoughts and some favorite prayers:
Prayer is a conversation with God. One definition of the word conversation is “a talk between two or more people in which news and ideas are exchanged.” The old adage “we have two ears and one mouth” makes me remember being told “you can never learn anything while talking.” So when praying I talk and God listens and then I should allow God to talk while I listen.
Without us God won’t. Without God we can’t. – From a sermon by a former pastor. How can we be with God without prayer?
Many years ago, I heard Billy Graham say we should pray four hours a day. I thought he was crazy and it was obvious he did not have four young children clamoring for attention most of the day and sometimes much of the night. But then I read some prayers by Marjorie Holmes. One entitled “Praying While Peeling Potatoes” gave me a whole new perspective about how, when and where we can pray.
Sometimes I tell friends that every time I think of them it is offered as a prayer.
Where did we get the idea that God only answers prayers if they are answered with yes? I believe God ALWAYS answers our prayers. When asking for something there are many possible responses. Yes, maybe, I’ll think about it, later, and no are all answers we get from people. Why do we think God has not answered our prayer if we don’t get exactly what we asked for? Although the tune is catchy, I dislike the lyrics to a country music song entitled I Want to Thank God for Unanswered Prayer. God answered the prayer and the answer was “no.” And Bette Midler’s From a Distance has always bothered me too. I don’t think God is watching us from a distance. I think God is walking with us and watching closely. If that is not so then I think it must be because we pushed God away.
My favorite place for joyful prayer is at the piano playing hymns. Early in the pandemic I made a list of things to do at least three times a week and starting to play piano again was on the list. It has been joyful to experience improvement in my playing as I sing in full voice my favorite hymns. I concentrate on hymns of praise, worship, celebration and thanksgiving.
My new favorite prayer is a Buddhist prayer from the adult study book, Grateful. The Buddha offered these words to sum up the day: “ Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die: so, let us all be thankful.”
My old favorite prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
And a parting scattershot thought from St. Francis of Assisi: “First do what’s necessary. Then do what’s possible and suddenly you’ll be doing the impossible.” I think prayer is a necessary component of this directive.