By Juarlyn Gaiter
When I was growing up, my sisters and I were taught by our parents to pray to God before our meals every day. We also learned and recited a prayer together at bedtime that I still remember: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen“.
Do you recall a childhood prayer like that? And at the end of our prayer each of us would mention specific friends, neighbors and family members by name. It would go something like this, “Lord would you please look after my Uncle Norman and bless my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Fair?”. Over the years my prayers changed a great deal, and took on various forms, depending on the particular experiences and challenges that were going on in my life.
Sometimes now my prayers are short and can happen anytime and anywhere. I may say silently a few prayerful words, or make a request of God, when I see someone who looks to be in distress, or while driving I hear a loud siren from a nearby ambulance. And there are other times when I find my way to a favorite place at home, where I sit in silence and pray for at least 20 minutes or occasionally a few hours. A list of specific people to pray for, however, remains a constant in my prayer life that continues today. I suspect that there are many people who have prayer rituals that help keep them connected to, and at peace with, God or a higher power.
It has been said that sincere prayer from the heart is a love letter to God. Most often we think to pray when we are feeling unhappy, stressed or at our wit’s end. At times like this we come to God, not so much on our knees, but with outstretched hands, asking God to please do or give us something. We might ask God for a new job, an exciting, loving partner or perhaps protection for a child who is withdrawn and seems depressed.
If you are like most people, we seldom pray the prayer that lets God know just how much we love God and desire God to be active along with us in our everyday lives. It is easy to pray The Lord’s Prayer when there are no expected, troubling events that threaten to turn our lives upside down.
The prayer that is a love letter, however, is personal, even intimate, because we choose our own words to give it power and meaning. Psalm 39:4 reminds us that “Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord you know it completely.” Although scripture assures us that God knows our very thoughts, it is also true that God cherishes our prayers and longs to hear from us.
- The following prayer was written by Thomas Merton. The simple words of the prayer reveal an intimate intensity that shows us how deeply Merton loved to trust and please God.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road
ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I
really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following Your
will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the
desire to please You does in fact please You. And I hope that I have
that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything
apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this You will lead me by
the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I
trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of
death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never
leave me to face my perils alone.”
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
God will never leave us or forsake us, because God’s love is available to us all the time. All we need to do is pray up a love letter and ask for God’s guidance.
What follows -in the weeks ahead- is a Series of prayers or love letters to God that I have written that correspond to the description of the fruit of the Spirit in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Galatians 5:22 – 23 ESV). Here Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as:
- Love (My first prayer can be found below)
- Joy (the next post in this Series)
- Self Control
Love Letters Sent to God: Love
Dear Lord come and fill my heart with Your life giving gift of love.
Please remind me to find ways to be a loving presence in Your world today.
Let me see how love heals and is not offended by the actions of
others who may or may not be aware that You love them.
Let Your love for my brothers and sisters enter into my thoughts
and be made clear in the words that I speak every day.
Dear Lord please show me how to be an ambassador of love for You wherever I go. AMEN
Juarlyn L. Gaiter, Ph.D., a life long Presbyterian and the oldest of three daughters, grew up in a strong Christian family. Her parents were co-founders with others of a small, community church in Florida; she joined the church when she was twelve years old.
Juarlyn graduated from Eckerd College with a degree in Psychology and later earned a Masters and Doctoral degree in Experimental Child Psychology from Brown University. She spent two years in Divinity school, first at the Interdenominational Theological Center and then at Candler School of Theology (Emory University). She has been a member and leader of prayer groups for over 35 years and is a veteran of silent retreats. This year she will be a student of spiritual direction at The Shalem Institute of Spiritual Guidance in Washington, D.C.
Photo credit: honorbound/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)