I’ve been a minister for 17 years and I still wonder about prayer. What is it and does it work?
Even though I wonder about prayer, I’m always glad to offer it and receive it.
The Sunday before I left for India, I asked the congregation to pray for me.
“Please pray for safe travels; pray that my beloved humans and animals will be okay while I’m gone; and pray that I stay open to what this journey has to teach me so I can return and serve our Spiritual Center.”
I told the congregation, “If you have prayer requests for me, write them down and I’ll bring them with me. I’ll pray for you while I’m in India.”
About 100 people gave me prayer requests written on small pieces of purple paper.
These prayers, offered up with trust and caring, were like a rosary. I carried them everywhere. We walked together through mosques, shrines to Shiva, the Gandhi Ashram, and a Coffee shop built on a Sufi Cemetery where coffins inhabited the dining room. The prayers danced on the roof with me. They breathed in the small meditation huts where we sang Interfaith chants together.
One early morning, shortly after my conversation with Josephji the Renunciate, I meditated with a group. It was dark; I was sleepy; but the air was charged with grace. I felt the power of Something Greater moving me.
Suddenly this phrase sprang into my heart: Prayer is renunciation.
I thought about my prayer requests for safety, inspiration, and leadership. I thought about the dreams of our congregation tethered in purple papers. With all this sincere hope, was I supposed to renounce, give up, abandon…?
I sit with the phrase Prayer is renunciation and allow it to teach me, even now.
I tenderly hold the crazy quilt of India – the instant best friends, the unanswerable mysteries, the cows, the rogue traffic, coffins in a coffee shop, and an expansive feeling of well-being both here and there despite poverty and other problems. I marry India with my life as a SoCal irreverent reverend. I carry timeless time and sometimes glimpse behind the illusion of separation.
I still wonder, but I have moments of Reality in Prayer.
Prayer is renunciation.
All prayer requests are noble.
We pray the best we can.
We become the prayer when we renounce the limitations of the separate self.
Our renunciation, our letting go, allows a higher order of Grace to emerge.
The higher order of Grace is often so much better, deeper, and sweeter than we could have imagined before the letting go.
What does renunciation mean to you? Is there a prayer within you calling for your renunciation?