What does it mean to pray anyway?
Is it a prayer when we breathe in the scent of the baby in our arms as we close our eyes against the press of tears and think, “Thank you, thank you, thank you”?
Is it a prayer when we groan with the weight of hopes and dreams unrealized and unclear and seemingly out of reach?
Is it a prayer when we crumble to the ground, broken, and whisper, “Help. Please help me.”
Is it a prayer when we stand in awe of creation as Mary Oliver does of this grasshopper:
The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Yes, all of it. It is a prayer every time you are grateful. It is a prayer when you reach out in hope. It is a prayer when you glimpse something more, deeper, wider than the here and now. Paying attention to whomever or whatever is right in front of you and to the longings of your own heart puts you in the middle of the miraculous unfolding all around us.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?