Your prayer life is like a fingerprint – no one has the same. Our journey through life says it all. I must admit though, “writing” about one’s prayer life comes close to asking about one’s sex life! To me it has been a private matter, but when asked to share about prayer, I wanted to do the subject justice by telling how I arrived at this point of life at the tender age of 79.
I grew up in the church and received Christ into my life at 26 years of age through reading an old book, “Transforming Friendship” by Dr. Leslie Weatherhead. I accepted Jesus as leader of my life and bridge to God, our Father, by His sacrifice on the cross. I had a conversion experience, was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and several years later experienced the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” during the Charismatic renewal in Pittsburgh. During this time I was in a prayer group of about 30 plus people for a period of five years. This was an intense time of Bible study, personal growth and prayer.
The first reality I discovered after my conversion experience was that Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit wanted a “relationship” with me. It was an intimacy of mind and heart that was so overwhelming. What developed then was a “trust” – that no matter what my thoughts were, I could speak to this Trinity with total honesty, provide an open mind and be assured that I would receive guidance, comfort, forgiveness and spiritual grace.
My family then moved to north central Pennsylvania and I became very active in my church, becoming LEM II, choir, altar guild, vestry and ECW leader. I also attended several classes at the Diocesan School for Ministry and was appointed to the Diocesan ECW Board as the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative. I attended Cursillo and gave a couple talks at the Diocesan Mission Conference. It was during this period that I wrote a prayer/poem, Special Friend. All this activity occurred during 30 years.
Looking back I must confess – studying the Bible had been like reading a history book and just provided verification for my conversion and spiritual experiences. The BCP (Book of Common Prayer) was not a book I turned to for “spiritual uplifting”. Also, prayer came with difficulty – whether said out loud or in my mind. I never seemed to have the “right words” and I didn’t feel comfortable praising God either – “why did He need praised?”
But, nevertheless, Our Lord had a Way – a niche and I never saw it coming. I believe it began when I was preparing a talk and was searching the BCP when I came across the definition of prayer (page 856). “Prayer is responding to God, by thoughts, by deeds with or without words.” Now that put me into a Receiver position, i.e., I did not have to make up beautiful words to pray – instead I was to receive and respond. God was the Initiator – but how was I to respond?
This quest led me into Contemplative Prayer. I read Thomas Merton’s “Open Mind, Open Heart” and listened to Thomas Keating’s lectures on “Centering Prayer.” I did not have to “make up” anything – just be quiet! I also learned that God did not need me to praise Him for His benefit or ego. God wanted me to praise Him for my benefit. My praise was to open my heart to Him. Again, the BCP: ( page 857), “……God’s Being draws praise from us.” Now that was a very good reason to me!
The “speaking in tongues” gift that I had received over 50 years ago also served the purposes of praising God – in a prayer language. Occasionally, when I could no longer think of what to say, I could use my voice to express what my heart felt. It was like expressing love using your voice and you knew that what you said was right and not orchestrated – you did not have to think about what to tell God how or what you wanted Him to do; you just provided the sacrifice of your time and voice. This I could do out loud or silently.
Also, if ever I have the opportunity to participate in “laying-on-of-hands” for prayer ministry, I encourage it. There is a special intensity which breaks through and creates community and sharing of one spirit. It is like a marriage of our spiritual selves together for the common good.
I have now arrived on my prayer journey. Now upon hearing Scripture and BCP prayers in church, I know they have been written by others who have been inspired. My approach to prayer now begins with honesty of mind and heart. As I begin to be open in prayer, I usually like to “name” what I am thinking. I try to find a word to best express what is bothering me or the reason I think this or that. It is kind of like confession. I then turn that thought to God’s will for healing, forgiveness or release. I lift up names in petition knowing that God knows their needs. I like to practice silence in the style of contemplative prayer – just basking in His presence. “For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough” (Claire, Outlander by D. Gabaldon, Chpt. 38). Occasionally, I use my prayer language – especially in times of joy. I also delight in His blessings and gifts of ideas or humorous coincidences that could only come from God’s unique Grace and Blessings. Prayer has become a very safe and loving place. Amen.
Diane Pyle is a member of Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Emporium, and the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer Representative on the Diocesan ECW board.