Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Difficulty With Prayer

I get anxious when I try to pray. It’s always been a struggle for me, but it’s something that I’ve managed to ignore for most of my life by never really taking the time to try and formulate my own prayers. My prayer life relies on already written and well-worn prayers. Sometimes though, I feel like a prayer needs to be more personal, and then panic sets in. WHAT IF I LEAVE SOMETHING OUT?? 

I find myself making laundry list prayers, never being able to end it, just going through my mental list of all the people who are important in my life and all the people who are important in their lives and their dogs and cats and birds and anything else. It’s paralyzing, and it makes it very difficult to pray. I feel like if I do forget something, then it disappears in a vortex of lost prayers. Intellectually, I know this isn’t true, and the God I believe in doesn’t let prayers, even forgotten ones slip through the cracks. But it’s times like these when I hear about the struggles of my friends and family and the people they care about that I feel like I should pray with something more personal, and then the unnerving anxiety and thoughts that if I don’t say a prayer for this person then it’s a minus 1 point in their prayer quota column begin bubbling up like a volcano. Again, intellectually I know that there’s no heavenly prayer ledger book where prayers are added or subtracted and the final quota determines the outcome, but my overly rampant imagination is a bad influence on itself and keeps building on these wild doubts. 

The beauty of the Episcopal Church for me is that when I have absolutely no idea what to say, there are ready-made prayers right there. And when you feel more than words, there’s the music, which sometimes says it better than anything. So while prayer is still a source of fear for me, I am trying to work on it by paying attention to what’s been working for so many years in our church. So I think for now I’m going to try to relinquish the power, and use words written and music composed with such grace and feeling by our Episcopal brothers and sisters, and hope that God, our Mother and Father, gets what I’m trying to say.  

I leave you with a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that I love

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the spirit of Jesus. Amen. 

And with an incredible piece of music by composer Will Todd 


  1. Hi, Claire, A beautiful piece on prayer...I've used the BCP prayer you shared more than once in the hospital. It will serve you well as you enter the field of medicine. Congratulations, by the way, on your acceptance into medical school. The world is about to be a better place! All the best, Marian Fortner+

  2. Thank you for this - beautiful. And congratulations. Your cousin, Barbara White

  3. claire,
    your very wonderful dad (who i'm pretty sure thinks you're pretty great!) directed me to your blogpost because he knew that i would love every word of it ... he was right.

    i thought you might enjoy these quotes from Being Home by Gunilla Norris:

    " ... to become aware of the prayers that you are already praying. Perhaps you will be surprised at how full of silent prayers your daily round is, how full of meaning and grace."
    "Often the prayers are wordless. They are simply a kind of awareness, a return to gratitude, or to conscience, or to praise."
    "Sometimes saying prayers keeps us from being prayers."

    your life, claire, is a living prayer, a sacrament -- an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.

    love all around,
    ellen gabardi

  4. That's so beautiful Ellen. Thank you for sharing!