Why do you pray?

At 62 years of age, this is the first blog post I have ever written.  It feels intimidating to ponder what, if anything, I have to add to the billions of words electronically abounding in cyberspace.  When we added blog capabilities to the NCF website our goal was to provide an additional way to encourage and facilitate conversation among all of us.  With that goal in mind, this post is to invite responses to the question, “Why do you pray?”  I’ll begin.

The Sunday, October 4, 2009 edition of Parade Magazine contains, “surprising results from an exclusive Parade poll” — a national poll examining American’s spirituality.  One section of the poll asked respondents if they prayed, and if so, why and for what:

“In previous eras, Americans were on their knees nightly, convinced that they had to pray because a higher power demanded it.  That conviction has largely evaporated.  Although 51% of respondents said they pray daily, only 15% of those who pray said they do so because God expects them to.  A much larger percentage (67%) said they pray because it brings them comfort and hope.

What are they asking for?  Lots of things – 72% pray for the well-being of others, 60% for forgiveness, 27% for personal success, and 21% for money or other material things.”

I don’t know the exact questions asked in this poll, but reading the article stirred my own reflections upon why I pray.

First and foremost, my morning prayer is the time I stop and take the time to be grateful, to say, “Thank-you.”  Not often by reciting a list, rather a simple thank-you for the mystery of life, a body that works, people I love and who love me back, for pollinating insects and singing birds, sometimes even for squirrels, whose chief entertainment is to take one large bite out of each ripening tomato in my garden.

Prayer is the way I have found to tone down, and sometimes even silence for awhile, the siren voices of anxiety and fear that are never far from my thoughts.  In prayer, I often find a center that allows me to enter into my day with hope and courage.

What do I pray for?  Anything that concerns me at the time.  I must be careful, though, since thinking about and dwelling upon certain topics, even in prayer, is an invitation to anxiety for me.

For myself, I am most content, and, I think, most helped, when I move beyond words into an inner quiet, a warm and often joyful expansion of my heart.

For the past several weeks hummingbirds have stopped to hover one or two feet from my face each morning.  Looking at me as a source of food?  Asking for a blessing?  Or simply joining me in giving thanks for Life?

I would love to hear others reflect upon this subject.  Please post your comments below.

Jim Linder

3 Comments On “Why do you pray?”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Jim. My favorite time to pray alone is when I’m walking. I find myself praying for the people closest to me and praying about concerns more than I’d like–I wish I could focus on broader issues more and on praising God, the way you describe your morning prayer and reflection time. That’s part of why praying as a community during worship or in small group is so important to me. It helps me broaden my focus and cast a bigger net of prayer.

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  2. I pray about everything and anything, because it helps tremendously with my anxiety. I try to pray every evening for all the patients I saw that day in the office and I pray for the ones I love at home. I pray for anything that is making me anxious (and that is a lot of things!) For years I prayed for God to keep me alive long enough to take care of my kids till they could do it themselves! I am happy to report I think they have made it there so God answered that one in the affirmative!
    Sometimes when I am laying in bed in the morning and feeling unmotivated I pray for help to face the day and all I have to do in it that day. I pray for God to arrange my day so I can handle it and he often does… As a doctor, I always say a “door nob prayer” before I enter the room when I have to deliver bad news. Sometimes it’s just a simple one line prayer to give me the strngth to do it more than a prayer for the person to be honest…
    I don’t have a strong faith, often I preface my prayers with “if you are out there listening to me God please show me in some way.”
    I used to feel sort of guilty for praying about everything, I mean, how could I justify praying about Robby’s lost soccer uniform when there are people struggling with starvation, death of loved ones bleeding to death inthe ICU etc. However, over the years, I have found that praying about everything and anything all the time has been helpful to me in many ways. Hopefully it even helps the ones I am praying for sometimes too. (I guess you can ask next sunday if Robby found his soccer uniform.) Robby and I both were praying about that this morning. Maybe he won’t need it if it continues to rain like this today…

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  3. Thanks for doing this blog…like Janet, and as a medical provider in an Emergency Dept., i find myself praying most acutely alongside a suffering patient. One time I had a patient in her 30’s having a life threatening allergic reaction. She has two kids and a husband. As I struggled to open her airway and watched her deteriorate, I cried out :God help me to save this lady! Fortunately that prayer was heard. The lady came to thank me months later. Interestingly she did not recall the details of the drugs or airway administered, only recalling hearing my frantic prayer! Most of my prayers are not that frantic, but probably more petty. I pray most of all to experience God’s presence. I find praying the Hours in a regular liturgy most helpful, followed by silence. I think the real ‘payoff’ for me is God’s presence, although sometimes are more acute than others.

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