What is prayer? Is it an activity of the divine or is it something we initiate? What if we think of prayer as connection, attention, and response?
If we think of all the energy in the universe — connecting planet to planet, star to star — it looks like a matrix of light and echoes a web of sound. Let us think of the earth with its tides, and winds, all its creatures and vegetation, connected together with lines of energy, itself spinning in space. And there we are, in the midst of it all, mostly never noticing our own participation in it all. When we do pause, we can connect in like plugging into an electrical outlet. At those points where we connect, we forget everything except being vibrantly alive. Intercessory prayer is less about asking God to do something we want and more about connecting ourselves with those we love, to share energy and grace. When my father was very ill, he was astonished that he could feel others praying for and with him. It is God who connects us within the divine heart, God who is the power and possibility into which we can tap ourselves and others.
Prayer requires attention. To pray, we must seriously see the situations and issues, not as items on a list, but as experience and centres of life. The woman who anoints Jesus acts in silent adoration. Unlike the other disciples, she neither denies the reality before them nor does she protest. Instead she does the only prayerful thing; she unties her hair in mourning; she anoints Jesus as sacrifice and saviour; she washes his tired feet, and supports his aching heart. She sees him in focus, not as she wants reality to be. She does the only thing she can. She shows her love and understanding.
In prayer, we are empowered to respond authentically to what touches our heart. That means we can see ourselves honestly without fear of judgement. We can see others without our own projections and prejudices. We can experience the sometimes gentle, loving touch of the divine creator, the urge to act with compassionate justice that is the connection with Jesus, and the whirlwind of creativity that is redesigning Spirit, closing the worn out and opening the new possibility.
We can pray in the beauty of creation, we can pray in the rich silence in our souls, we can pray as we pay attention to our actions, and we can pray by paying attention in loving relationship. The important thing is, we can pray.