Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Author, Author!

I'm gonna be published!  Well, OK, technically I've had works accepted for publication before - sometimes even credited under my own name.  Poems in elementary school publications.  Articles in high school newspapers.  The (very) occasional op-ed or legal article.  And even co-authorship of a chapter in a big fancy law book, with a real binding and everything.

All very nice, in their way.  But I learned a month ago that I was going to be paid for  the publication of some of my works.  This is novel indeed.  Although "novel" may not be the right word, since we're talking about two poems and an essay.

I actually got the first heads-up that my pieces were chosen back in July, but I've been keeping it pretty quiet.  Partly because it's hard to know how much of an honor this is before I see the final publication (ye shall know them by the company they keep, as they say).

But still - this seems like an important milestone.  I already cashed the check, and will try not to spend it all in one place.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cold Spring

Appropriately enough, it was chilly out for this trip to Cold Spring.  There were a few small, stray flakes of snow as I walked up to Nelsonville, but it didn't last - mostly I saw ice crystals growing up in the soil and glorious icicle formations.  But it was just above freezing, so there was some melting as well.

For the first time, I walked all of Undercliff (y), from east to west.  It was a lovely route.  

A small puddle, frozen, in the Nelsonville reserve.

Handicap-accessible? Bike-friendly? I just thought this was unusual to have an easy way over ...
when there is an even easier way through.  The ramp appears to be "official" in the sense that
the wood is covered with chicken wire,  and there is a ramp on each side of the log. 

Ice crystals in the soil.

These ice crystals are more thin and curved, like mushrooms.
First glimpse of blue sky!


I'm such a sucker for the natural "verdigris" on the rocks (actually a greenish lichen of course).
Although I must confess the color doesn't show up very well on this particular photo.

I really couldn't get enough of the ice crystals!  These thin and wavy ones,
 you really could think they were vegetable matter rather than frozen water.

Clear and geometric ice crystals - much more rocklike in appearance, more traditionally "crystalline".

This S-bend in the river always makes me think of The Hobbit (probably one of Tolkien's illustrations).

Gorgeous sunshine!

Cloud shadows on the Hudson River.

Self-portrait: Large as life, and twice as natural.

Cloud shadows on a hill.

Leaves were frozen into this puddle on the trail at several layers - it was really beautiful in person,
but I found it difficult to capture the depth and nuance in a photo.

I love the icy edge of the submerged leaf at upper right.

Underfoot - more "verdigris" on the rocks.

At this point I'd veered off the Undercliff trail slightly, and encountered some
peach trail markings inviting me to climb the clean rock face.
Next time I will accept the invitation! 

Storm King across the river.

A small patch of sunlight on the river from between the clouds.

There was a vast and stunning cascade of icicles on the face of the rock toward the end of the Undercliff trail.

Icicles catch the light.

Some of the melting was really cool - it looked at first like tadpoles endlessly chasing each other under the surface of the ice:

When I reached the end of Undercliff (y), I turned right on Breakneck (w), right on Notch (b), forked right on Brook (r), then left on Cornish (b).  The total distance, including road walking, was about 9 miles from the Cold Spring info center, according to my iPod pedometer.  I did this in 4.5 hours, which seems to be a typical hiking pace for me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Knicks Get Knackered

Yeah, yeah, I know. That hardly qualifies as news. Despite the crowd's repeated reminders (DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!), it seemed like any time the Bobcats managed to get on the right half of the court, they got a few points.

The Knicks actually did better than I expected against the Bobcats, as the final score was 110 - 118. But when I see scores like that, I think cricket.

There were also moments in the game that reminded me of American football (a pileup of players on top of the ball) and bowling (self-explanatory).

What made the game fun to watch was that the Knicks started out ahead, and then whenever they got too far behind (by say, 14 points or so), they would rally and almost catch up...

Also the hecklers who were sitting behind me were hilarious. They kept up a running commentary, their increasing despair sharpening their wit to a bitter point. Gotta love the NYC 'tude.

But the game also brought back memories of my bad old days as a cheerleader. We didn't have a football team, so our "big" sport was basketball. That part was fine; we got to cheer for the girls' team and the boys' team, at home games only. Why exactly were those days so bad, then? Glad you asked. For example, when both teams were playing at the same time, we would routinely have conversations that went something like this:
Fellow Cheerleader: Should we cheer for the boys, or the girls?
Me: How about we cheer for the boys?
FC: Oh, I'd be too embarrassed! (She and others giggle.)
Me: Well, let's cheer for the girls then.
FC: Oh, the girls are too boring! I don't want to cheer for them! (More tittering. This would continue for a few rounds, then we'd go out and go through one cheer for the boys, followed by a quick retreat into the girls' locker room for more fiddling with makeup, clothes and hair.)
But there was one game where we actually stuck around and cheered a while for the girls' team. Unfortunately, my fellow cheerleaders had only bothered to learn two or three cheers, so our repertoire was rather limited. I think it was the second or third time that we did "A big V, we want a victory!" that one of the players took me aside and very politely, albeit with a tinge of desperation in her voice, asked if we would stop doing that cheer since they were losing 23-0.

So that particular memory flooded back every time the JumboTron announcer ordered the crowd to clap and cheer....

Sunday, January 01, 2012

On Prayer

One of the best comment threads I've seen - from back in 2010 - and it's on the subject of prayer.

Sharp About Your Prayers
How Do You Pray?
September 15th, 2010 · 40 Comments · Sharp Prayers

[Rev. Scott Black Johnston concludes his post with the following invitation:]

My sermon title for this Sunday is “Knock,” and you would help me immensely by sharing your experience with prayer.  If you haven’t posted before, please give it a shot.  This isn’t about judging the rightness or wrongness of anyone’s habits.  It is about learning from the diversity of what we do.
How do you pray?

40 COMMENTS SO FAR [lightly edited to correct minor typos where I happened to notice them]↓

Will // Sep 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

my prayers are usually eyes wide open and, like yours, sometimes drift to thoughts….and i often ask the Holy Spirit to pray for me. because i don’t assume i always know what’s best for me or anyone else!

Brenda // Sep 15, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I/we try to pray every morning before going out the door; starting with a scripture reading from Our Daily Bread and an anecdote/interpretation of that reading. We then each pray out loud individually giving thanks and lifting up our concerns and requests for help and guidance – particularly in how we might apply scripture to our lives. I start off thanking God for the opportunity to pray again for the chance to pray in the company of a loved one. The practice of praying out loud helps me to remain focused and does not allow my mind to wander as easily to that list of what needs to get done that day. The chance to pray with a another brings us closer as we share our deepest fears and concerns allowing us to help each other. On those days when there isn’t time, I pray for understanding – and forgiveness. Then there are the prayers lifted up on the fly throughout the day: prayers of thanks and prayers for help and prayers for forgiveness.

John // Sep 15, 2010 at 1:22 pm

How do I pray? Sometimes I think too much; many times not enough. Most of the times I find myself praying in really weird places. Nothing complex, just more of a, “are you there God? I just wanted to chat” type of prayer. I find that, of all places, the shower is a good place for me. There is something about that space that is comforting and humbling at the same time. The other day I was in the ocean swimming and found myself praying about how nice it was to be in that moment. I have prayed while working, or digging, or painting. Sometimes, when I pray, I look up. I do that when I am in the woods, a lot. It is a really nice to see the sun shine through the trees that makes me squint a little. I can think of about 3 times that I felt compelled to get on my knees to pray. I felt broken or really thankful at those moments and really needed a secure and direct connection with God.

We as a family pray at meals. It is habit and like the kiss goodbye for the day or other incidents of affection it is just good to do. Sometimes I feel artificial when I pray in a group. Saying the same words that those around me say feels (not all the time) like I am going through motions. I don’t think that is bad. Sometimes there is comfort in “I just gotta do this prayer thing.” I usually pray at those times (really most times) with my eyes open and focusing on something small on the ground or in front of me. Honestly, I get nervous about praying in public. I don’t want to be viewed as ingenuous and wearing my faith like a letter jacket from high school. I guess that is my pride. I should pray about that.

John // Sep 15, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Some of my comments got cut out. Too long winded. Anyway here is the rest.

I don’t pray for things or qualities because I pretty much get what I ask for, but not the way I expect. It’s usually better. Praying for patience or courage or wisdom or anything like that has really been eyeopening. God blessed me with feeling frustrated, scared and foolish to bring out those better qualities. I am thankful for those times, but, oh boy, where those interesting lessons.

Many times, I ask for prayers. I don’t think that God values a prayer from a larger number of people praying more than an individual praying. I do think that there is something powerful in communal prayer. Bottom line, I sometimes like to know who I am praying for or who is praying for me.

Lastly, I pray mainly because it works. I feel connected to God. I like the dialog. Yes, i believe that God talks to me. Not with a booming, “go build an ark” voice but more like a, ” i hear you, john. I really understand.” kind of conversation. Kind of like a good friend that does not need to say a word to know how to communicate. I like that.

Lynn Pitz // Sep 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I guess I pray several times during the day, with no set time, or place. Sometimes only in little snippets, little “Please God’s” And yes, my mind does wander often in these little prayers. But…the big ones…”Please God, let my brother be cured of cancer, or don’t let my mother suffer”, those intense prayers are most often done on my knees, and my mind does not wander.
There is something so comforting in “giving it up to God”. When I am confused and looking for answers, it is often the prayer that clears my mind enough that I am able to move in a positive direction (God’s doing? I think so). And when I am frightened or worried, just passing these concerns to God in prayer makes things so much easier to bear.

charles kartman // Sep 15, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I have never felt completely comfortable with my feelings about prayer. God just seems too “big” to be the object of my personal prayers. But of course I pray in church and at home, in any position and usually silently and with eyes closed but always with hands clasped before me in supplication and with “Dear God” or equivalent in front and “Amen” to close. And I never pray for myself, but only for others.

Constance // Sep 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I am guessing I have found myself in all the prayers you described, Scott, under various circumstances. I find that, like jiggling the mouse to get the screen to light up and keep me directed and focused, so can prayer be for me. And connected, directed, and focused is where I am at my best… My tried and true prayer? “Thy Will be done.”

SBJ // Sep 15, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Wow, everyone, thanks for your honesty, and the grace of your reflections! Please keep them coming, good readers.

Charlene Han Powell // Sep 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm

My mind is a wandering nomad amidst the distractions in my apartment, office, or wherever I am; the To-Do list that is constantly being added to; the snack I am craving; the next activity I need to be at; and the conversations that I am looking forward to having or dreading.

Therefore I write my prayers in a journal. That way the rhythm of my hand moving on a page keeps my mind on tempo.

In terms of the time of day, I like praying in the morning to center me before my day begins and I like praying before I go to bed to bring me back to center after being re-routed so many times. But I’ll be honest, I am more proud than a 4-H’er who just got a blue ribbon at the State Fair if I journal twice a day.

The most important prayer I have ever prayed was and is that my husband will know that Jesus loves him, died for him, and wants to be in relationship with him.

The most beautiful prayer I have ever heard was the silent rocking of a Korean grandmother at early morning prayer at a church I used to go to. By early, I mean 5:30 am. She wasn’t praying out loud, but she might as well have been. With every tightening of her hands, swaying of her body, and bowing of her head, I could almost see the husband, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, and loved ones she was interceding for.

Mary Rose // Sep 15, 2010 at 3:20 pm

My most wonderful prayer experiences are
when I relate to God very personally and talk
with him in a one-on-one conversation. I definitely feel like God is listening and I have to
watch myself to make sure I am also listening and not just doing all of the talking.

When problems or difficult circumstances arise,
I believe in prayer unceasingly with a quick sentence prayer while waiting for the elevator,
waiting to cross the street, on the way to the doctor, in a Taxi, etc.

Joyce // Sep 15, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I pray at different times and places–in worship for instance. But my favorite is while out for my morning run. The fresh air, the dusk turning to dawn, the beauty of nature in the midst of the city lead me to the spirit and I feel called to pray.

Matt // Sep 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I am reluctant to draw a line between what is prayer and what is not prayer–God is present everywhere, always, even (perhaps especially) when we think God isn’t listening/isn’t there. I’ll offer two examples–one literary and one from personal experience.

1. John Irving’s book “A Prayer For Owen Meany” is written as a prayer–but it’s unlike any “Prayer” we would think of–it’s full of death, sadness, violence, and even (gasp!) sexuality. It emphasizes that in every moment of our life we are in prayer (whether we’re aware of it or not).

2. I was in law school at NYU in 2001. A few days after 9/11, before the law school had reopened, there was an informal gathering of the law school community in Washington Square Park. People shared reflections, hopes, fears and prayers. One of the folks who spoke was a young Indian-American woman who noted that she was a Hindu, but had always found comfort in spirituals. Her voice rang out as she launched into a note-perfect rendition of “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” I’m sure she didn’t intend that as a prayer, but in my view, it absolutely was, even amongst a community of various religious affiliations (including many who identified with no religion at all) .

Tim // Sep 15, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I tend to go through phases of prayer. For a while during seminary, it was lectio divina or the Ignatian exercises. More recently I rediscovered the rosary from my Catholic youth and have found it comforting on sleepless nights.

Right now I am devoted to two apps I found for the iPhone — Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Compline). Both are recorded services, with music, Scripture and prayer. You can follow the text and say the prayers, or just listen. I do Lauds on the subway to work. It takes my mind off any anxieties of the imminent work day and creates a ‘space for grace’ in the daily commute. I listen to Compline at bedtime, sometimes falling asleep with the Psalms in my ear. Many of the service elements repeat frequently; I have found new favorites among the Psalms, and many of the prayers have become part of me.

Here’s one I particularly like: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep. That awake, we may keep watch with Christ; and asleep, rest in his peace.”

I also like to drift off with Jesus’ words: “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”

Treva // Sep 15, 2010 at 5:24 pm

I pray when I have the chance – and I take those chances several times a day. I use the time both to talk to God and to practice mindfulness. I also use the time to be in the current moment and not to focus on the failings of the past or the possibility of future failings. I feel God’s presence during these exercises.
I also pray as I sing. The words of the songs are like prayers to me. A past choir director once said to me that choir members pray twice. I think this is true. I truly feel the spirit in the breath that it takes to sing. It makes my heart feel full of God and the spirit.
Good places to pray or be mindful? My room, the subway, my backyard, anywhere my guitar is, or with my family.

Raleigh // Sep 15, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I wake up to the sound of NPR. And I’ll listen to a good fifteen or twenty minutes of it before I’m ready to wake up. But before I open my eyes, every day, I keep them closed and pray to god. I start by telling him good morning, by thanking him for this day, by asking him to help me walk the path he’s laid out for me today. It’s a nice routine, and I say the Lord’s Prayer each morning towards the end of my prayer. If I’m concerned about something, I start my day by giving HIM that concern. I’ll lift up my concerns to him in prayer, and say hey, God, I’ll work on doing a good job down here today, could you help me with these things? And then I open my eyes and reach for my Max Lucado daily devotional, a book I’ve been going through (“In the grip of grace”) for years now every day. I get a verse and a small, half-page devotional – and I’ll read it, and think about it, and ask god to help me implement that bit in the day. I read these again at the end of the day, to see how I did. It’s a really nice little routine, even though people make fun of me for it. But I like my daily talks with God. It started out as a habit I was just trying to develop (I also brought back saying Grace at every meal, even one in front of the t.v. or at the counter by myself) but now it’s something I cherish.

My boyfriend is an officer in the United States Marine Corps so he’s gone all the time. It’s rare we get a weekend together, and when we do, it’s rushed and usually not even here. Usually at his parents home, so he can get family time too. That being said, it’s easy to feel lonely and fall into that routine here of temptation and sin, just because I miss the comfort of the constant conversation of that relationship. But I found that I could fix that emptiness with God. And He’ll be the one carrying both of us through these deployments, and truth be told, talking to him every day? He’s been there for me ever since. I’m sure he was there already, but I must have been like the cool kid in the middle school cafeteria: you were talking to me, God, but you weren’t at the cool table, so I just couldn’t be bothered to listen.

These daily acts of prayer aren’t really something I do, so much as this thing that happens between us. As soon as I started talking to God, started talking back. And now we’re at the lunch table just us, anyone who wants can join, and I’ve never felt so loved and not alone in my life.

This makes me happy. And that’s how I pray. Eagerly, happily, and like I’m talking to my closest friend.

Susan // Sep 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm

I pray when I’m filled with joy watching my children learn something new and seeing the tremendous pride they feel. Or when they say, “Mommy, I love you!!” apropos of nothing. Or when we’re wrestling on the floor, laughing hysterically, and making the most of every moment together.

I pray a thank you when I narrowly avoid something terrible – a car whizzing by too fast, a choking hazard averted by seconds, a terrible fall off the playground that results in only a scraped knee.

Anonymous // Sep 15, 2010 at 9:46 pm

The most important prayer I ever said was, “God, please help me not get loaded today.” I had been drinking and drugging every day for a year and a half. I was increasingly miserable. At the end of most days I would say to myself, “Tomorrow I’ll take the day off; I won’t take a drink or a drug. I’ll get everything taken care of.” I failed over and over, and each night I went to bed or passed out beating myself up for having failed. I was full of shame. I felt completely isolated from everyone around me, and God? I believed in him but was sure he wanted nothing to do with me.

I can’t describe exactly what happened on the last day I got loaded. I was walking home from a party and stopped dead in my tracks and realized I couldn’t stop on my own and would stay miserable if I didn’t stop.

The next day I found someone to talk to, and that person found someone to take me to an AA meeting. I don’t know if it was during the day, during the meeting, or later that night, but the prayer I said was, “God, I’m beaten. I can’t quit without you. Please help me stay sober today.” And I did. It blew me away. The prayer wouldn’t have been possible without the action of going to the meeting. I had to be willing to act. But I truly believe that God intervened on my behalf to keep me safe from that first drink. God continues to keep me safe from it, and my life today is a reminder of the miracle that in some way proceeded from that prayer.

That night I said, “God, thank you for keeping me sober.” Those two prayers are the bedrock of my prayer life today: “Please,” and “thank you.”

West // Sep 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

Thanks for that prayer, Anonymous. I am glad you are with us!

SBJ // Sep 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

Wow. Amen.

adj // Sep 16, 2010 at 9:56 am

Scott – I have a question: Is PRAYER a type of Godly currency? I mean does it have more value to the one giving it or to the one receiving it? Your sermon title, Knock, references the verse I assume. In that case God asks us to ask and then it will be given. It counters with GRACE where it is not asked for or deserved but given. Just a thought.

SBJ // Sep 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

Great question. Good insight. I think there are a number of people who treat prayer as if it was something that gradually builds up on God’s scales, finally tipping the balance, and prompting heaven to act (to get busy). I am not in that camp… although, I must admit that persistence is something that the Bible does both advocate for and honor in terms of prayer! Still, I prefer to think of not as an economic transaction (a currency… something given–something received), but as a relationship/ a conversation that is grounded in radical honesty and love. More on Sunday, but I hope that helps.

jennica carmona // Sep 16, 2010 at 10:25 am

I journal as a form of prayer. Every morning, first thing after I roll out of bed, I open my journal and start writing. Its in the form of a letter, “Dear God, please help me….”
I pray for specific things going on in my life, then I pray for others like my family and friends. I end each prayer with a gratitude log, giving thanks for all of the blessings in my life, even the small ones.
I do the same at nite before going to bed.

Ruth // Sep 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Ii pray on my knees every night before I go to bed, and I also pray during the day and evening as the need arises. I am usually praying for guidance or I’m offering a prayer of thanksgiving for the near miracles that occur in my life almost every day. I feel that I have a one on one relationship with God, and my prayers are conversational. Answers to my requests for guidance are not always forthcoming in a way that I can understand, but I do have faith that God is one my side.

Susan // Sep 16, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Reading these comments on prayer is very inspiring!

Like others who have been writing here, I too pray anytime/anywhere — usually outdoors, walking in the city or riding on the bus. Sometimes I pray first thing in the morning or last thing at night — while in bed. Usually my prayers express thanks and joy and also serve to remind myself of the abundance of blessings I have in my life.

I usually pray for others — for my family and friends — and for wisdom and patience for myself — especially in resolving challenging situations.

I also pray for forgiveness, especially when I am quick to judge others harshly or be overly critical. And I ask God to help me better understand how to serve him.

Christian Pelealu // Sep 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Me and Vivien pray on the subway train every morning when we are on our way to work. We always ask the Lord to be with us through the Holy Spirit to guide us and to use us for His work that day. We believe very strongly in prayers because of the many many amazing miracles that we’ve experienced throughout our lives. Also because of that, we tend to pray at anytime and anywhere whenever we feel the need to communicate something to God. We usually just close our eyes and start to pray silently. If any of you would like us to share our stories with you please don’t be shy and say hi to either of us at church. God bless!

eric // Sep 16, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I try to pray as often as I can during the day: to live prayerfully. To be in as constant a conversation with God as possible. I love Mother Teresa’s comment that sometimes when she would pray, she would just listen…..I often pray for the power to discern God’s will, and when I discern it, to follow that up by acting upon it.

Martha Araujo // Sep 16, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I hope it is not too late to post a comment.
I pray in Portuguese, which is my first language, and the reason is obvious. The words are right there at the speed of a second of thought, effortlessly. I usually pray in the morning and at night, maybe more sometimes and I prefer to speak to God in private and quiet, which is convenient to fight any distractions; in words, rather than thoughts, but thoughts count too.
To me, it feels right and good to say a prayer and literally talk to God, in my own words, or in someone else’s words, what I would like Him to know, even though He is fully aware of everything. I also find important to thank Him for all the blessings and everything in my life, for my friends and family and because I believe that once we were blessed with our faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we should always pray for others, as we do for ourselves and include those who have no one to pray for them.
The most beautiful prayer I know is the one Jesus taught us, The Lord’s Prayer.

A // Sep 17, 2010 at 8:20 am

My life is a constant prayer. A prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer of hope, a prayer I will live the life God intended. I have become increasingly reliant on prayer for peace. It soothes me, alleviates pressure, and focuses me on the extraordinary obligation I have as a disciple of Christ.

I pray on the subway, I pray in my home. I pray in the office, I pray on my lunch break. I pray when I’m happy, I pray when I’m sad. I pray I may know Christ so I may share Him with those who may not even know they’re seekers too.

The most important prayer I’ve ever prayed was for life. Feeling trapped in an unhealthy relationship and an unhealthy job made me question my life for the first (and God willing, only) time. I wrestled with Christ and begged for His help. My family and my faith truly saved me.

The most beautiful prayer I’ve ever heard was by a woman right outside my home. She was sitting on the steps of a church, head bowed and hands clasped, and I went up to her to offer her some food. When she looked up, her eyes filled with tears. She said simply, ‘Thank you, God.’ It is one of those moments I will never forget. Christ is alive and working through us each and every day. For that, I give thanks and praise.


Kirsten // Sep 17, 2010 at 11:22 am

Praying in the middle of everything seems to be my motto. Yes, my formal prayers exist too and those are usually in my bed when all is quiet. But everyday, all day, I catch myself praying and asking for God’s help, guidance, right words, removal of negative feelings etc. Long winded, wordy prayers are with my kids. I’ll start with all the things we are thankful for and praise to God for His beautiful creation and then we hit the laundry list…”please give ____ comfort that she can do well in school and you are always with her.” Knowing God is always listening and wants a personal relationship with me makes praying feel comfortable. When listening to others pray I long to be able to pray like those who are completely in the moment, loving those they are praying for and showing their love for the Lord all at the same time.

Anonymous // Sep 17, 2010 at 11:32 am

I learned from a friend that prayer is talking to God as we normally talk to friends. Hence talking to a friend can be anywhere and at any time.

Devin // Sep 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

Outside of church or church-related settings, I don’t pray that often. It just doesn’t occur to me to do it. But there are times when I need quiet and stillness. That’s when I pray by myself, and sometimes I don’t even say anything to myself. Instead, I silently try to reconnect with the love of God, what that love calls me to do, and who that love calls me to be. But the prayers that have affected me the most are those prayed aloud in groups. One person will stay what he or she is going through (good or bad) and someone else will lift that prayer up to God. In those moments, I feel not only connected to God, but also connected to God through the people I am praying with. It’s powerful.

Jen // Sep 17, 2010 at 1:40 pm

With two small children, and all the busy-ness that goes with a full family life, my prayers are pretty catch-a-catch-can. Whenever I get a moment, or “feel” the moment, I pray– on the subway, when I pass a person sleeping on the street, when I read an email or Facebook post of someone in distress, or in bed before I fall asleep.

The only regular prayer time I have is one that we’ve instituted as a family ritual. It’s our “candle time.” Before we say grace at dinner, we light a large pillar candle that lives on the table. We leave that candle burning until bedtime for our children. Once in jammies, and bedtime stories have been picked out, we sit around the table at the candle. Each person tells, in turn, what they are thankful for that day. When we are all finished, we say, “Goodnight, God!” and blow the candle out. Then we have a family hug. We started this routine, a bit out of the blue, about a year ago, and it’s just stuck. It’s a very nice way to end the day, and something that kind of anchors our evenings. And the practice of gratitude is a constant reminder of the blessings God’s bestowed upon us.

Rina Tendean // Sep 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I pray in the morning to give thanks for another day and to ask for guidance. At night I pray to thank God for His guidance and to ask forgiveness. My mind also drifts to thoughts when I pray at night. I am grateful that I am able to communicate with God at anytime and anywhere.

Beth // Sep 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Every morning and every night I pray…like bookends for my day. In the morning, I use the bible my mom gave me years ago along with a daily devotional subscription I’ve had for years through the Methodist church in which I grew up. In the evening, I reflect on my day, think about the next day and simply pray. I know it sounds crazy, but my cat is my prayer partner in the morning…he loves it when I put the bible on the bed…he goes over and “scratches” the cover with his declawed paws…clearly it feels good to him…perhaps for many reasons – both physical and spiritual! These prayer times are my opportunity to express my gratitude for so many blessings in my life and pray for opportunities for me to be a blessing to others.

Emily // Sep 18, 2010 at 8:33 am

We pray at meals and bedtime with our child, but for myself I find that the “Jesus Prayer” is a useful tool. I can repeat “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy” (a bit of an alteration of the actual prayer that I learned about in the writings of Madeleine L’Engle). I repeat that prayer in rhythm as I knit, especially if I am knitting for someone else. I repeat it in my head when overwhelmed by the events of the day or listening to the pain of a friend or loved one. I repeat it to myself on my own behalf when I find myself judging others or feel anger welling up inside. As a working mom living in a city apartment with someone else almost always near me, it is hard to find quiet, alone time to pray for extended times. But I know that these simple words, carried with me all day, can speak my heart’s concerns to God.

Audrey // Sep 18, 2010 at 11:56 am

I usually start my day out with a pray as soon as I get up. I usually just lie there for a little bit longer after my alarm goes off. Throughout the day I pray for little bits and pieces of time as I go through my day at school or wherever I am that day. At night, when I have my Bible devotions I pray thanking God for whatever I read that day. I always feel the most connected to God when I pray as I read the Bible. I also really enjoy praying while I have some instrumental hymns music playing. Then at the very end of the day when I am just ready to go to sleep, I have my longest prayer of the day talking about the day and whatever happened and thanking God for all the things that happened. I always try to make my prayers slightly different each day, I try not to say the exact same thing every time because I want to think about what I am praying for. When I pray a similar prayer each day compared to the day before, I don’t feel as connected to God, I feel that I have more of a relationship if I say something new, and think about what I am saying to God. I also sometimes just like to not talk during prayers, just listen to God. It is such a peaceful time during the day.

Barbara // Sep 19, 2010 at 8:09 am

I don’t think what I do is really praying. It’s more like constant conversations with God. I assume he is always next to me. Sometimes I ignore him. More often I just ask Him what I should do. I sometimes get angry and yell at him to fix something. I do thank Him. It’s usually in words like, “Wow, that was great.” What I do may not be praying in the standard way, but I feel God and I have a special relationship and I am secure.

lora // Sep 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm

I’m a little late to the game, but I read somewhere once (by a fancy-pants Christian author) that you’re not a good Christian unless the first thought when you wake up in the morning is a prayer and the last thing you think of before you go to sleep is a prayer.

I bothered me for a while, because that wasn’t the way I operated and therefore, I thought it meant I wasn’t a good Christian. But then I realized that I didn’t necessarily believe the author that had written those words. I don’t believe God measures the amount of our prayers and judges us based on those amounts.

I grew up in a family where we prayed, hands held, before every meal, even when we were out at a restaurant (embarrassing at 16, but now at 33, I think it’s pretty special). We prayed as a family in the car before a long road trip. We prayed quite a lot–I would even find my mom praying for lost keys!

I suppose I’ve carried over a lot of my childhood prayer habits into my current life. My husband and I prayer before we have dinner. I give a quick shout out to God before a long roadtrip. I still pray a lot, but during the day, it’s more that I have conversations with God, rather than bowing my head. I pray for my family and for my friends and for myself and for strangers I’ve never met that are going through hard times. I pray for guidance. And I pray that He’s with me in all my day to day interactions.

I’ve also realized that rather than only asking God for things while I pray, prayer is also a great time to give thanks for what He has done in my life and the lives of the people I’m close with. There are so many wonderful things that happen through the course of the days and months that it feels only right to be thankful that God listened and answered in the way He felt best.

Laura Fissinger // Sep 26, 2010 at 1:42 am

I so hope that this comment stream stays open and alive for a long, long time to come. I “prayed” it tonight, the first time I’d ever read it. I prayed along with all the prayers that each person posted, plus the exclamations of Rev. Scott. I wept more than once because your entries are so honest and spilling with beauty. I laughed more than once at people smiling at themselves, wondering if their way of carrying on conversation with God was strange. I wanted them to hear me say “not at all, and thank you for being straight up.”

I’m more of a “conversations with God” type, but I love all kinds of prayer, and I learned about new ones here. One of my favorite prayers combines the one from the Bowery Mission with one of the most powerful phrases I know of. So the prayer ends up as “God is good all the time! Praise the Lord!” The more imprisoned I feel by whatever I’m praying for, something in my life or others’ lives or in the world at large, the more emphatically I pray this small verse.

It always feels like I’m receiving miracles when I pray it. Thanks again to all of you for giving me so much spiritual food tonight.

Ellen // Oct 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm

A little unorthodox — to me, prayer is guided thought, very often a non-verbal interaction — no time-place-posture-form requirement.