The Prayer of my Life 

Prayer is much more than a few religious words spoken now and again: it is being open to God in everything that we do in life. 

In the course of a lifetime we put only a fraction of ourselves into words. So real prayer needs to be more than words if we are to call to God out of the depths of our being. 

Our prayer is not just what we say: it is what God picks up from all the signals on all the wavelengths we give out in every part of our living. 

God picks up all sorts of signals, many of them from people who can’t pray in words, for one reason or another. Cain murdered his brother Abel. So poor Abel found that he had no tongue, no voice, just at the time when praying would seem to be a good idea, even a desperate necessity. 

But then the listening God told Cain (who didn’t want to keep his brother and thought that at last he was free): The voice, the signal, of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 

Jesus told the story of the rich fool. He “thought to himself” what he should do with the overflowing harvests his land gave him. He told himself he would replace his barns with larger ones, store everything and say to his soul: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”

But God said to him, “Fool, this night your soul is required of you and then where will all your property be?” (Luke 12: 15-21) 

This rich man did not think he was praying. He was just talking to himself. But that was precisely how the real signal of his life came out and God picked it up. Unhappily, it seems, God did not think much of it. It was a prayer that showed what the man was living for, but not a prayer that could stand the test of being heard by God. 

The purpose of prayer is not just to get things from God but to let God sort out and judge what we are living for. 

Where did this man get the prayer of his life from? I doubt whether he made it up for himself. It is not an original recipe for the good life – work hard, get rich and even richer; look after what you gain and then enjoy it.

We mustn’t criticise this man as though he was peculiarly wicked for having this life prayer. He fitted into a common prayer of his culture and ours. 

If the prayers we pray with our lives are not original, where do they come from? Who writes the prayer my life is praying today? 

The prayer in my life and work may be very different from what I would dream about if only I were free from social constraints, obligations and conditioning. But I have to earn my living and fit into the present world enough to survive. 

When I fit into the world, my life is still a prayer, but a prayer written for me by others, by my family, my peer-group and my boss. Most of us have bosses. Some more anonymous and collective than others, some better than others. 

The prayer of our living is largely scripted for us by the organisations we serve and are shaped by. 

Have you ever thought, when you go to work, you are actually going to a prayer meeting? The signals we transmit as workers are very powerful, for we put some of the most energetic hours of our lives into work. 

How does God read these signals? If we want to pray life-prayers which God will be glad to listen to, we may have to rewrite the prayers written for us by those who organise our life, as well as the prayers we write for ourselves. 

Eternal and Holy One, Let your will be done on earth, in and by us today, as it is in heaven. 

Let it be done in sincerity; Let the good dreams of our hearts and the institutional necessities of our work join hands together in joyful agreement to do what has lasting worth according to your judgment. 

Originally published in the Baptist Times, some decades ago.

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