The Chesapeake, Ohio, Village Hall frequently posts messages on its eastern wall aimed at drivers heading onto the 6th Street Bridge leading into Huntington. My favorite message of theirs goes: “Have you prayed today?”
Driving on country roads through West Virginia and neighboring states I always look for the messages churches of various denominations post on their billboard. The ones urging prayer are, again, those that I retain best: “Prayer changes things.” “Work hard, play hard, pray hard.” “Life is fragile; handle with prayer.”
As we cope with the results of our 2020 presidential election, we will need prayer more than ever. Our country has been cruelly divided between partisans of the right and of the left, with those of us clinging to centrist positions almost lost in the conversation in the nation’s media.
All religions that I know of counsel prayer, not just as a good idea, but as a necessity.
The Bible itself lays down a tough marker: “Pray always.” Also translated as “Pray constantly.” See 1 Thes. 5:17 and Eph. 6:18.
Yet how many heed those crystal-clear verses?
Once, while listening to a Christian radio station as I rolled west on I-64 near Ashland, I heard a radio preacher beg his listeners to “pray at least for one hour.” Wonderful! I said to myself. A challenging proposition. Good for him!
Until he clarified things and I realized he was asking his listeners not to pray one hour each day but only one hour a week.
Perhaps those of us who attend church on some regular basis pray more than we think we do. (Could be true for non-churchgoers as well.) How so? Well, because many folks have too narrow a definition of prayer. They regard their thoughts and words as prayer only if they are asking something from God --healing for themselves or a friend, a better job, money to get out of debt….
Petition, however, is only one form of prayer. Other forms are equally important, perhaps even more so. Such as prayers of thanksgiving, forgiveness, praise and worship, contemplation.
Personally, I believe we now need prayers of reconciliation. Family members, neighbors, co-workers and other acquaintances have, for the last four years, been sorely tried in their efforts to deal with one another’s political convictions. Democrat or Republican or independent or other. For or against President Donald J. Trump.
Our Pledge of Allegiance tells us we are “one nation, under God, indivisible.” But haven’t our words and our behavior belied that proclamation? We need quite literally to plead with our Creator for the graces of being able to listen to one another, agree to disagree, and return mutual love nonetheless.
Saying and singing praise to God, right out loud, as we go through our day, is a marvelous tonic. I do this frequently just walking my dog Cooper through our neighborhood.
We owe God everything: our very life, our faith, our hope for heaven. Cannot thank him and praise him too much. And encourage others to do the same.
Contemplative prayer? I suggest you check “What Is Contemplative Prayer?” by Lori Wildenberg at www.crosswalk.com. A very balanced piece, acknowledging but correcting opponents of the practice and highlighting spiritual benefits