I pray daily now. One could even say that I follow the biblical admonishment and “Pray without ceasing.” But this “praying without ceasing” is not what I used to think it was. I do not go around compulsively praying. My prayer is more of an attitude of prayer, of simple acknowledgement of God’s presence and an expression of gratitude for the blessings and beauty of life. I like the Buddhist notion of “mindfulness” and this might describe what I mean by prayer. “Mindfulness” is just paying attention from time to time at what is going on in one’s life, in one’s day to day experience. For example, in recent weeks it has meant being “mindful” at the beauty of a yellow warbler cavorting in the underbrush on the shores of the lake, or a mockingbird sipping water from a birdbath, or a Great Blue Heron gently and elegantly patrolling his station on the lake. It has meant being “mindful” of the first taste of coffee in the morning, or savoring a fine glass of wine, or spending time with friends—and certainly with my lovely wife.
Prayer has a meditative dimension. It facilitates focus, the reining-in of a mind that is prone to wonder, of a mind that is often consumed with idle chatter. The Bible admonishes, “Be still and know that I am God.” The “being still” is often difficult but spiritual wisdom tells us that it is only in primordial stillness that we can acknowledge our Source. Gerard Manley Hopkins noted:
ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.
Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
5 It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.