Prayer is talking with God. Listening. Dancing for joy. Sharing presence with God. Screaming in anguish. Prayer happens in sacred spaces, at home, in nature, anywhere, anytime. Prayer can be shared with those of my faith and prayer can be shared across denominational and faith lines because there is but one God and we are all sisters and brothers.
How my understanding of prayer has changed during my life! In my years I talked, saying prayers and sharing concerns and wants with God. I remember my sisters and I kneeling at our bedsides saying our night prayers and putting in our list of needs and hopes. We said morning prayers and evening prayers as a family.
Gradually I learned to listen - to wait in silent expectation. I remember my dad teaching me to listen to the grass grow so that he could have meditation time in the early mornings while working out in the garden. There in the garden I learned to listen to nature and to hear God.
I remember too the the evening that I learned the secret of loving presence - the deep awareness of being present with a beloved. I was 14, doing my homework in the kitchen while my mother was ironing in the corner and my dad was at the counter doing paperwork. I became aware of the stillness - peaceful yet alive. Later I asked my mother about it and I can still hear her response "For those who love deeply just being present to each other can speak volumes."
Later I learned that anger and pain belong in prayer. I remember attending a play in New York in the early 1980s, at the start of the HIV/AIDS era. The young man's partner has just died of AIDS. He goes onto the roof top and screams his anguish to God. I recall so vividly being shocked by the realization that this was the most authentic prayer I had experienced. The whole person was praying.
And then there is the whole-person prayer of joy and wonderment. I watched delight the dance of profound gratitude and exhilarating joy of a friend upon the birth of his daughter. Could anyone doubt what he was feeling and conveying with his whole person?
Today I realize that my life enfolds all these aspects of prayer. Prayer is communing with God with my whole being. What really matters is that I allow God to love me and that I be authentically me in receiving and sharing the love.
Sister Andrea Nenzel, CSJP is Chair of the Board of Peace Health and lives in Vancouver, WA.
"So yes, we are forever beginning, and the best we can do is be very grateful that each new beginning is one more chance to grow. "
Margaret Byrne, CSJP