by Michael McGinnis
Most people get used to doing things in a certain order, or in particular surroundings, that make what they are doing easier. You don't eat while you're painting the house; you don't do your income tax while you're taking a shower. But sometimes life overtakes your fussy partitions and gives you a chance to do something a little different, and maybe widen your experience some more. Not long ago I received an opportunity to give a prayer — an activity to be done in public that I normally do when I am alone.
I think most of us pray, one way or another. Most people believe in God, whether or not they would use that name. Prayer can be formal, like a speech written down in advance; or it can be informal — more like a casual chat with God. Either way, prayer is a very important part of life, as it is our effort to address ourselves to foster and improve our connection to God and our immortal self as Soul. Praying on a regular basis is a good idea; it helps to keep the inner lines of communication open. But many of us also use prayer in helping to deal with the unexpected.
At a meeting I recently attended, a prayer was needed to conclude the meeting. Other people in attendance seemed willing to forego the privilege, so I said that I would do it. But what would I pray about, on such short notice? My first thoughts were about prayers that I have used myself in different situations.
Well, this situation was unexpected, so quickly I reviewed some of the prayers for unexpected situations that I had already used fairly often. For example, the one I use as I play "Ballistic Missile" in my car as we (my car and I), go sailing off the edge of yet another piece of scenic Yukon roadway (see last month's editorial). I had already adapted this prayer to another use last summer when I went for my first horseback trip. I prayed pretty well continuously for the first four days and my horse was relatively well behaved (i.e. he behaved like some of my relatives), and I did stay on top of my horse. However on the fifth day, my attention was distracted by some alarming and painful developments in the lower regions of my anatomy which made it difficult to keep my seat with equanimity. Though I was never able to see it, I inferred that I had a considerable sore on my butt. Thus distracted, I neglected my religious observances, and shortly found myself suspended, though for a short time only, in midair. My horse, perhaps sensing the reduction of my religious zeal, had decided to throw me off. Outwardly, my subsequent collision with the ground seemed to lack spiritual content. However, when I picked myself up off the ground and discovered that I was unhurt, a prayer of thanksgiving seemed very appropriate. This prayer ("Please Minimize the Effects of Uncontrolled Motion!"), though heartfelt, seemed to miss the mark as something fitting to the occasion of a serious and successful meeting.
The most important preparation for any prayer is to have an open heart. Being able to laugh at our difficulties is a good sign of readiness for prayer. The thoughts from my summer experiences reminded me also of the need to give thanks, to show gratitude for the many benefits life brings our way.
I was almost ready to pray. The last thing to do, was to make sure that I was listening to my heart. To do this I often sing the word "Hu" to myself, and relax with the sound. The prayer I gave was one of thanks for those attending the meeting for working together, for representing all parts of the community, and for planting seeds which will bear fruit for the future. A simple prayer but it made me realize that prayer is a state of mind, or rather a state of consciousness, and that any occasion can be a golden opportunity for it.