A few months ago, I found I had been taken captive by the idea of prayer.
Perhaps it was the proliferation of global tragedies or the rolling out of the political season, but one day I noticed this: “prayer” was everywhere.
Well, not actually prayer but the reference to prayer, as in “our prayers are with them”; “prayer won’t fix it” or “prayer is not allowed”. I was hearing about “prayer shaming” and standing up for “prayer rights”.
I heard so many variations on the word prayer that eventually I couldn’t make heads nor tails out of the word anymore. What were people actually saying with this word used so prolifically by presidents and kings, the brokenhearted, politicians run wild and teenagers who should’ve had better things to do?
I began to ask questions about people’s particular experiences with prayer. And it turns out, that although references to prayer are everywhere, people are reluctant to share their actual experiences with it.
On the radio program On Being, I heard the actor Martin Sheen ask Krista Tippet if she ever questioned her guests about prayer. She admitted she didn’t and explained, “it’s so intimate.”
I think this is what finally hooked me – apparently, I had stumbled upon the one topic in 2016 that is so intimate that people can’t or won’t talk about their actual experiences with it, except perhaps with their own choirs. The wraps are kept tight on what actually happens, or maybe doesn’t happen. Doesn’t this fact alone make you want in?
Ultimately, I came to sense that something important was being missed. If we are only talking about our own experiences with prayer with others who share our view, aren’t we missing the larger picture of what prayer actually is or could be? Are we actually missing the whole point of it? And maybe, most importantly, are we losing out on the power there might be in it? Here’s what I think: if there is actual power in prayer, now would be a really good time to use it.
This is the purpose of Prayer Soup: To create a place to share your experiences with prayer and to find out about the experiences of others. It’s a place to expand our understanding of prayer rather than narrowing it. This is the reason for the metaphor of “soup” – separate ingredients can be amazing and stand on their own, but the alchemy that happens when you throw everything into the pot creates something far richer.
In talking about our experiences with prayer, I think we should leave descriptions of the belief systems that have led us to a particular way of doing it to other sites; this is not a forum for convincing anyone of anything.
And I think we can dispense with a definition of prayer – you know what it is, even if you don’t use the P word, or believe there is anyone actually listening. It’s a place you go as much as something you do. And it is as likely to involve a symphony or a crowded square in Paris, as it is a church. I invite you to share what happens when you do it, or when you get there, and then to tell the rest of us what you make of it. How does your prayer experience impact on your life and who you are? How does it change you? Why do you keep doing it? Or why have you stopped doing it?
Do you see? The possibilities are endless. In that On Being interview, Martin Sheen said he loved praying because it required him to go deep into his imagination on a daily basis.
That’s what I’m talking about. Be brave and throw your precious, unique ingredients into our pot; join our Soup. We can make a powerful brew together. Bon Appetite!