My Prayers Today

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kathleen bertrand -my prayers today-2

I am not sure what I believe about prayer.

I understand expressing gratitude and joy. I can appreciate setting an intention to align myself with God’s heart before making a decision. I understand asking for help in immediate circumstances, like sending patience to me around 5:30pm on weekdays as I try to make dinner, keep a tired preschooler busy and supervise homework. But it gets trickier for me when I think about intercessory prayer. Especially about when I want to pray about much larger issues. Infertility, cancer treatments, Syria, South Sudan, the systemic racism I am starting to see everywhere around me. How do my words matter in these utterly overwhelming situations? God already knows everything so what is the point of my prayers? What kind of God would wait for the right number of people to ask with the right words before doing something? What does it mean when prayer fails? Can prayer fail? Are my prayers for me? For the person I am praying for? For God?

And so, as I wrestle with (and yes, pray about) these questions, my prayers have been changing.

I am working hard on sitting with pain and hurt rather than pushing or busying or even praying situations away. As I pray I try to give my feelings space and welcome them in with an accepting curiosity. I am learning to sit with my hands open before my Creator. And I mean this literally. I have started the practice of sitting with my hands cupped open in my lap. Sometimes I can almost feel the weight of my questions, my lament, my pain and my joys in my hands. This practice of just being with my prayers, mediating on feelings and situations as physical objects I can hold but not change, has brought healing to some tender places in my life. Today my prayers look like sitting in silence with my hands open in my lap.

As much as I try to concentrate on what is in my hands, more often than I’d like my prayers turn back into lists of wishes to a Genie in the Sky. It is then when I focus on my breath. Each inhale the cleansing breeze of the Spirit. Each exhale a further emptying of myself. Slowly, slowly as my exhales become deeper and deeper, I disconnect from my thoughts and my spirit settles into my body. Sometimes I focus on receiving God’s love on my in-breath and sending out love on my out-breath. Other times I focus on the sounds my breath makes. A friend shared that YHWH can be understood as the sound of breathing. I get chills when I focus on this transformation in my body. From the moment we are first earthside to the moment we move beyond, we are a constant embodiment of God’s very name. And sometimes, if I stay long enough with my breath, a new sensation emerges. I feel like I am spinning and spiraling upwards, faster and faster and I end my breath prayer feeling slightly dizzy. Today my prayers sound like breathing.

I almost always have at least one candle or stick of incense burning somewhere around me. They flicker away as promises of prayer to friends and family across the globe. Small lights lit as an act of solidarity with a deep pain or a secret longing or a whisper of hope. As I go about my day whenever I see the candles or smell the tendrils of incense, names and situations float into my mind and up to the One Who Is Always With Us. It does seem a bit audacious to me, this act–daring to believe that turning on an electric candle or burning a stick of incense can make any sort of difference. I still don’t know if I think it can. But for so many situations lighting a candle is all I can do. Today my prayers smell like candles and incense.

And when I don’t have the will to pray at all I turn to Common Prayer. As I read the words echoed all around the world by my brothers and sisters I am so relieved I don’t have to find the right thing to say. I feel connected by these strings of words to a lineage running backwards through time. Today my prayers sound like liturgy.

Murmurs of ancient lines. Small twinkles of light and tendrils of incense. Breath transforming my body into a holy vessel. Open hands in offering to God and in acceptance of what is being given to me. Faith that somehow it all matters. These are my prayers today.

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. Romans 8:26 The Message

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Kathleen Bertrand

Kathleen Bertrand

I was born and raised on the West Coast of Canada, but half my heart lives in Brittany, France. I am happiest with a cuppa tea and a good book and I spend the rest of my time in between the mountains and the beach in Port Moody, BC with my husband and two wee ones.
Kathleen Bertrand

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Comments

  1. Melaney G Lyall says:

    My smudge smoulders and carries my prayers to the heavens…to the Great Mystery… We sent prayers off in a sacred fire while Idelette danced 😃 … I feel the Spirit’s breath in the breeze as the leaves rustle…inhale deeply!! I feel my burdens being carried away as I embrace the great cedar as I offer my tears as a moment of prayer, grief and pain…. every breath is a gift!! Thank you friend!! xo I needed this reflection

  2. Lisa Scandrette says:

    Thanks, Kathleen! I’ve been doing my own wrestling with prayer and it’s good to hear your process!

  3. Anna Williams says:

    Thanks for sharing, it is really helpful to hear others talk about this. I am attempting prayer again after a long gap. What I have recently learned is that it is ok to pray with feelings of frustration or hurt. I am no longer expecting to walk away feeling like I am on a higher plane. I am just choosing to sit and spend time with with God and praying for others even if I can’t find the words, with no expectations.

  4. Yes! I’m leaning into breath-prayer these days. Remembering that God is in me and my breathing; in my exhalation; in the air around me. It’s small and yet so big.

  5. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your words and heart.

  6. Tiffany says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you. I have been on the journey of developing a contemplative prayer practice, and your writing game me the space and grace and freedom I needed to feel today. Prayer doesn’t have to be anything more than resting in the presence and Love of God. <3

    • Kathleen Bertrand says:

      O yes! It seems there are many of us walking this journey together. I am so grateful not to be alone.

  7. sjsmom says:

    Thank you for this. So much. I am particularly struck by the connection b/t YHWH and the sound of breathing. And so today, I will breathe in to YH and out to WH, inviting God to be with and within me today.

    • Kathleen Bertrand says:

      This was mind-blowing for me when my friend Olive first shared it with me. God is literally always with us!

      • sjsmom says:

        I’m speaking in my church on Sunday – about “abiding” in God. This may well have shifted my thinking as I prepare. How better to abide in God and have God abide in us than to see our breath as that invitation and embodiment.

  8. sandyhay says:

    God has been transforming my prayers over the past three years until now they’re very much like what you’re writing about. In my kitchen I have candles lite for Abby and Gabi. Just saying their names and pausing in silence, occasionally a few words but just lifting them to God. That’s my prayer life and it’s freeing. Thank you Kathleen

    • Kathleen Bertrand says:

      You are right Sandy, it IS freeing. I hadn’t really considered how much I can feel trapped by worrying about saying the right words until your comment. Thank you.

  9. Kathleen, you’ve wrapped up truth and beauty all in one offering of words today.

  10. Heather Deeming says:

    I can’t tell you how helpful (and hopeful) it is for me to read this today. I’ve been feeling lost with prayer for quite a while – your words and example have reassured me and given me something to hold on to. Thank you.

    • Kathleen Bertrand says:

      O goodness, I am grateful for your voice here. I know that feeling of being lost and I am so glad I am not the only one!

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