Saturday, October 31, 2009

Extracting Prayer

A week or so ago, I was telling my sister that I feel as though all of my prayers have borne more of a resemblance to whining and complaining than praying. At the time, we were headed into "our" Barnes and Noble, where we meet about once a month to talk about life in general and our writing in particular.

So, I decided that while I was at the bookstore, it might be a good idea for me to pick up a book of prayers - see how the verbally adept address God. Maybe I could use the prayers in the book to get started -as a model of sorts - or use them as a replacement on those days where all I seemed to be doing was whining and asking for favors. They'd certainly sound better than my litany of complaints.

I was headed to the proper section in the store when it occurred to me. I already have one of those books. Apparently, my prayer life has been here before.

I found the first book (not the one I was looking for - apparently, my prayer life has been here more than once before) and dutifully brought it upstairs and put it on my nightstand. There, it would be accessible to me for quiet time in the morning before the craziness of the day began.

So, last Saturday morning, as I lay in bed trying to convince myself to get up, I reached for the book and held it up in front of me...then an armslength away...then I relented and got up to get my reading glasses. Once I could actually see the prayers, I found them very helpful. They didn't make me a better person, or solve all of the world's problems, but they did help to make me more mindful of the attitude I wanted to adopt for the day.

Saturday evening, still trying to adopt that attitude, I decided to look for the other book -the one I'd thought I'd wanted in the first place. I found it close to where I'd found the first one, but unlike the first one, which was actually on a bookshelf, this one was in a pile of books beside the bookshelf. Two thirds of the way down the pile, beside an equally tall pile of things I plan to read someday.

Perhaps this is part of the problem. I keep trying quiet my mind in the midst of so many things that keep calling out to me - work, clutter, laundry, books, appointments, and, of course, people. Perhaps what I need to be mindful of is how many of these things I let into my life. I don't want to keep the people out, of course, and as annoying as the clutter is, in a strange way, it's an optimistic symbol. I truly believe that someday I will have time to read all of these things. At least the ones that matter.

Until then, I'm keeping that first book on my nightstand. As it turns out, it was the right one after all. The prayers in the book I thought I wanted sound too simplistic, too much like what I'm already saying.

So maybe I haven't been here before after all.

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