Anatomy of a Prayer
Today is a Snow Day - a good excuse to loll around in my pajamas and do nothing, although there is plenty to do. Instead, I have spent the morning watching a herd of deer take refuge in my back yard. I'm fascinated by them. There is no real shelter or food here, no leaves on any of the trees or bushes. There is just the group of them (five) and the icy pellets that have replaced the earlier flakes. One of them jumped the fence a few minutes ago to chase birds in the neighbor's yard. I swear this is true even though I would understand if you accused me of borrowing from a Disney film.
Otherwise they stand or sit in complete stillness. They look eerily like statues but it would be a mistake to confuse this stillness with sleep. I know this because the slightest sound - it could be me turning on the faucet inside the house from 200 yards away - and their heads go up and they laser me with their unblinking eyes. They are still but completely aware and in tune with their environment on a moment to moment basis.
I am so envious of this! I only have this capacity when disaster looms on the other side of a deadline. For me, being still is not compatible with being awake. And I think this is the reason that I seem to favor prayer as action, rather than prayer as meditation. Finding the Divine in stillness eludes me and trying only discourages me. I'm no longer worried about this as I've come to believe that there is no hierarchy in prayer; my intent and connection are enough. But I have to admit that I am drawn to these creatures of stillness, the apparent mindfulness in their way of being in the world. If you could see them now - sitting in the snow with nothing to eat, being pelted with wind and ice, their calm and dignity intact, I think you would understand.
As I watch, I think of the Sidney Poitier film that drew on the parable of the lilies of the field and hum a little of the Byrd's Turn, Turn, Turn: "to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven". I become aware of my own stillness and connection with the surrender and the patience of my backyard guests.
And I understand now that although it seems as if I have accomplished nothing today, I have actually spent my morning in prayer. I am filled with joy and want to say "thank you". And "Amen".