On our home page, we profess John O’Donohue’s truth,
“Prayer is the presence that holds harmony in the midst of chaos. Every time you pray, you add to the light and harmony of creation. If you do not pray, if you do not believe in prayer, then you are living off the prayers of other people.”
Despite the litany of prayers I committed to memory as a child and recited repetitively over the decades, I did not learn to pray until I returned to the Sonoran desert in 2009. That first October weekend over a decade ago, I was drawn to the Redemptorist Renewal Center [RRC] in Picture Rocks where the priests recited each prayer at each service with such sincerity and commitment, it was as if this was the first time each had ever uttered the words. They made the words their own, and they shared the words with all who would listen.
For the next seven years, I started my day at the RRC at 5 am or sunrise, whichever occurred first. Among many practices that became a part of my daily agenda, three led me to a deeper understanding of prayer and remain fixed in my psyche.
Early morning dark with Our Mother… It is very dark in the small chapel, the only light, the diminutive glow of votive candles that flicker as I kneel before the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. I can only say she brings me great comfort as a mother should. I pray to her in the early morning dark and continue now throughout each day. I make the words my own.
Walking the stations at sunrise… There is a stone bench at the midway point between the seventh and eighth stations – where Jesus falls the second time and Jesus meets the women. I sit and wait patiently every morning and watch the sunrise over the distant mountains. I am immersed in the wonder of creation.
Thomas Merton’s A Book of Hours… The Redemptorists introduce me to the work of Trappist contemplative Thomas Merton. In 2010, I acquire a copy of Merton’s A Book of Hours edited by Kathleen Deighton. I read it every morning.
“I look at the rising sun and feel that now upon me falls the responsibility of seeing what all my ancestors have seen, in the Stone Age and even before it, praising God before me. Whether or not they praised him then, for themselves, they must praise him now in me. When the sun rises each one of us is summoned by the living and the dead to praise God.”
Reciting words by rote memory has its place, but true prayer is not ‘worship.’ Prayer is an expression of gratefulness, an affirmation that I am glad to be alive regardless of my circumstances. If all is well, I am grateful for the peace the wellness brings me and those creatures I interact with. If I face challenges, I am grateful to have the strength to confront them with the conviction that my prayer will always lead me to do the right thing.
Prayer guided me to my credo
- I believe there is a single Creator that set the universe in motion, a Creator who has always been and will continue to be.
- I believe Jesus to be his human incarnation.
- I believe Jesus was the Creator incarnate for a single purpose: to be an example to human beings on how to live life in harmony with all of creation.
- I believe I am called to emulate Jesus, not to venerate Jesus.
This morning’s sunrise was beautiful. I have returned to the desert and I am glad.