If I am honest with myself my prayers are not all that sincere. While praying with my voice, my mind oscillates between thoughts of what we are going to have for dinner and trying to keep up with the list of names that I pray for everyday. I am usually pleased with myself just for sitting down and mouthing words of prayer, at least I made that effort right?
Bloom seems to disagree.
“What point is there in repeating words which have grown so thin, so meaningless, that they just allow us to keep a cobweb, as it were, between ourselves and God?” he says.
It isn’t that I want to be cold-hearted and distant in my prayer, it just seems to take too much work to get my attention off of myself and onto God.
Unexpectedly, after reading Beginning to Pray, I realized that there is one time of day that I consistently pray sincerely. Honestly, I wouldn’t have even called it prayer, but by Bloom‘s standard is may be the most genuine prayer time that I have on a regular basis.
It happens after I settle down into bed at night. My sweet daughter is snug in her room and Michael is already asleep next to me. I unwind and have a moment to remember how much I love my family. I think about how grateful I am to be with them, and despite our challenges I know that my life is good. I realize again that being there is a gift I received by no skill or grace of my own.
At the same time I realize that there is nothing I can do to keep it this way. My own life and health are passing away and in a split second an illness or injury could take me, or my family, our health or stability. All the things in which I find comfort in are fleeting.
In this moment I am filled with despair and in it I realize, that if God is not real, and Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then I have no hope.
I sit in darkness and fear.
And then, every night, I rebuild my faith.
I remember my conversion. I think about the handful of other times when I have felt God’s presence or seen his intervening hand in my life. I think about what it means to be a Christian for me and for the world. And then I fall asleep with the words, “Lord have Mercy on me, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy,” running through my head.
In Bloom’s words,“Indeed, a moment comes, a moment of despair and anguish and terror, which makes us turn even deeper inward and cry ‘Lord, have mercy! I am perishing. Lord, save me!'”.
He goes on to say, “There is a degree of despair that is linked with total, perfect hope.”
This is my story. I have so much, but it is all a grace from God. None of it is mine. This reality is both terrifying and reassuring.
I am learning that prayer is not a duty, or a list of words, or a list of names, and it isn’t me telling God what he already knows. It is seeking God in truth. It is finding words that resonate true with my spirit and that are true about God and communicating with God about these things.
I can with confidence say along with Bloom, “I have learned that unless the Lord Himself comes, I am hopelessly and completely helpless.”
Lord have mercy.