Years ago, when I was released from a relationship that was killing me, I felt lost, frightened, confused and alone. I had awoken with 72 cents in my pocket, a few clothes in a suitcase and my trusty Golden Retriever Ellie who had journeyed through the last harrowing two years of that relationship beside me.
I didn’t know what to do to find peace of mind and heart so, I prayed.
As a child, prayer had been a big part of my life. My mother, a devout Catholic, would make us four children kneel beside her every Friday evening in the living room of our home, no matter where in the world it was, and pray the Rosary. On Saturdays, my middle sister and I would go to the church with her to freshen up the flowers on the altar, and we would pray.
I was sometimes irreverent. Sometimes impatient, sometimes resentful of having to take time out from my play to pray. Always though, no matter what was going on around or within me, when I bowed my head and closed my eyes, clasped my child’s hands together in front of my heart and whispered the words of the Hail Mary, or the Our Father that began each decade of the Rosary, I felt a calmness descend and embrace me in its sacred warmth.
As an adult, prayer did not play much part in my life. In fact, for years, when my mother would say, “I’ll pray for you,” I felt a visceral reaction, a gut response of, “Don’t bother me with your faith and belief in prayer,” sizzle in my veins.
I realize today that my angry responses to her entreaties to pray for me had nothing to do with prayer, and everything to do with unresolved issues from childhood. I’m happy to say that today, I welcome my mother’s prayers, appreciating them for what they represent, a statement of her love and care for me.
Prayer also represents a powerful connection to the Divine.
On that first night after the police walked in and released me from an abusive relationship and I prayed, I wasn’t praying for anything in specific other than to drown out the pounding in my brain and hammering of fear within my heart. It worked.
I have used prayer intermittently over the years, often chanting in meditation or, on nights when sleep evades me, whispering the ancient words of the Hail Mary to allow peace to enter my mind and open the portals to sleep.
Prayer is a direct path into the sacred. A spiritual portal that connects me to the Divine, bringing me peace and calm. It soothes my soul.
I must confess though that when I say or type the word ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’, I feel a fissure of nervousness, a tiny worry of ‘what will other’s think’ scamper through my mind.
Will people think I’m trying to be all holy or devout? Will they think I’m getting all Catholic or religious on them?
If I were to write of Buddha, or Zen, there would be less mind-chatter tripping me up. Which means, I still have unresolved issues around faith and God and my thinking around what is spiritual and what is religious and what really does prayer do? I imagine the sleeping dragon within me is getting set to fire up my resistance to facing what is real and powerful and true to my heart.
So, I’ve decided to go on an exploration of prayer. To simply let my heart and soul and mind flow with ancient words of prayers written long ago and, with a group and the guidance of Andrew Harvey, explore the mysteries that prayer makes available, and the inner power and energy that it builds and sustains in birthing the divine human within.
The adventure begins tonight when the Igniting The Flame of Prayer course begins online.
I am excited!
And a wee bit nervous. I will be immersed in the holy adventure and, I will be confronting the dragon within.
And so, I breathe and I pray for peace and courage to embrace me.