“To you, Lord, I lift up my soul, my God.” Let’s talk about prayer since most of us find one way or another to take action and more often than not, speak to God. We sometimes have trouble listening to God or hearing what God has to say to us. That’s why so many go to churches like this Church in Sacramento to feel closer to God. We all have in our minds and hearts an image of God that speaks to us, maybe not of the Sistine Chapel ceiling image but one that defines not only who God is to us but how we interact with God.
We have just completed our Lenten journeys, and the refrains that echo in my head are two-fold. On one hand, in Luke 23: 42, we hear the criminal say: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He looks to a future with Jesus, but in Matthew 25: 46 we hear “my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” How devastating for Jesus to feel that way. Yet, everything changed with Easter. And we all look for a happy beginning to our eternity.
So, how do you communicate with God, with Jesus and the Holy Spirit? With all of the different directions people can go, I always believe our God is a patient God. While I fume and pace and want to get to the “bottom line” of my lament, my laundry list of needs, God is patient, maybe waiting for me to put a period on my requests. I know people who have lists of those for whom they pray. The older they get, the longer the list becomes. If you get on their “list,” you never get off. I like that idea because I know I remain on one or more lists. My motto: you can never have enough prayers.
Some prayers are addressed to the intercession of particular saints: St. Anthony of Padua, who has been less than helpful recently – maybe I haven’t presented my case appropriately; St. Jude, because many of my causes seem to be perennially “lost”; and one that comes to mind these days is St. Isadore, patron saint of farmers who will be or are planting this year’s crops.
Sometimes, for those on my prayer list, I revert to the prayers learned in my youth: the Memorare, the Lord’s prayer. Praying the rosary has always felt right, and works well on sleepless nights when worry about one issue or another interrupts a peaceful night.
But not all prayer is predictable or rote. It is sometimes a stream of consciousness when one thought folds into another, leading like a stream to an undisclosed location where the future will eventually catch up to our souls at rest, waiting for the encounter with the divine.
For people who see so many needs in our world – some of them as close as our neighbors – or as distant as those in other nations, we pray with our actions. Some people choose to express their prayer through social justice in programs or donations. Others participate in programs that explain and expand what it means to be a neighbor to those near and far. At the end of the day, we still pray by lifting our souls to our God in supplication, in thanksgiving, in joy and in sorrow. It continues to be our prayer.