Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Saint Augustine Approach

I pray through song. Though I'm rarely at a loss for words in other parts of my life, when it comes to prayer, I sometimes find myself tongue-tied. I can recite all the usual, traditional, childhood prayers - and I do - and they have their value. But when I want to just be, the thing that helps me do that is music.

Recently a colleague of mine asked for prayers for her mother who had suffered a heart attack. Upon reading her email, I immediately offered up a prayer, but it seemed so hollow, so insufficient - a drop in the ocean of her need.

I struggle with how to pray because sometimes, I feel as though my prayers are just an endless litany of complaints and pleas. Somehow, that just feels wrong. For those to whom prayer comes easily, the possibilities are endless, but their ease and helpful suggestions serve only to highlight my unease.

Sometimes, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle scattered on a table, the solutions to our dilemmas lay right in front of us, just waiting to be connected. My mp3 player is loaded with music, much of it contemporary Christian. Saturdays are typically my day to catch up on the week's sleep deficit, and get out of bed in a very leisurely fashion. Instead of chiding myself - get out of bed, get your day started, you have things to do - which is neither useful nor beneficial - why not start the day in a leisurely and prayerful fashion?

So, last night, before I went to bed, I made sure I had all the tools I needed. I gathered my mp3 player, my headphones and my reading glasses, and set them on the bedside table. This morning, when I was awake, but not quite ready to get up, I picked up those tools, turned on my mp3 player, put on my glasses (so I could choose the songs) and listened. Just listened. I tried to focus on the lyrics - sometimes successfully, sometimes not - but I did not chide myself to get up and do something useful, because I was already doing something useful.

I suspect that some of my Christian friends would be quick to point out that my quiet time should be spent reading the Bible, not listening to music, but over time, I have discovered that I feel closest to God when I'm singing, or when I'm just listening to music that touches my heart and makes me think. So, while the written word will always be a part of my prayer life, I can't ignore the fact that if music is a gift that God has given me, it seems only right to use it for His purposes.

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