At my weekly AA meeting yesterday the topic was prayer – something in all of my recovery day-at-a-times, I have never completely gotten my head around. Part of this I realize has to do with trying to figure out how to mesh some concept of prayer and mediation into something that is traditionally acceptable.
When I was a kid, I remember being quizzed on why we say the Act of Contrition (O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee, and I detest all of my sins. . . ) right before going to bed. And the correct answer is that if you die at night, you want to have cleaned up your side of the street with the Big Man Upstairs. So . . . perhaps today kids should say the Act of Contrition before going to school in the morning, but I digress. . .
Or . . . there used to be this deal in the Roman Catholic Church that if you went to church on the first Saturday of the month for six months in a row and said some special prayers, you were guaranteed eternal salvation. Given that my only reason for going to church as a kid was to escape eternal damnation, this seemed like a pretty sweet deal. So in the sixth grade, I had gotten to church the first Saturdays for five months in a row, and the next day would be the sixth. I announced to Sister Loretta Rose that after tomorrow, I would have said all the right prayers, the right number of times and I would be home free. And as any good nun could do she gave me that look and said “Well, if you are doing this for impure reasons, you might not make it to the church in the morning.” She had me. I was as impure as yellow snow. I did not go to church that next morning because I was convinced a piano would fall from a second story window, or a car would run off the road, or something would happen to kill me before I got to church to say my prayers to receive eternal salvation. I was screwed. At that point, I proclaimed I would never again pray for any such gimmicky thing. I hold true to that sentiment today. I am not much into intercessory prayer.
I like the line apparently misattributed to Francis of Assisi of “Pray constantly. Use words if necessary.” I am certainly not a Bible thumper, but I had occasion to say the Morning Prayer office five days a week for a few years a few years back, and though I came to loathe the employment circumstances, that 15 minutes every morning was the best part of my day. There is something too about chanting the Psalms. I also like sitting and just thinking about how green the grass can be – that seems pretty prayerful.
But my best prayer life is remembering to get out of self – the self-will run riot the Big Book talks about. It’s that 30 seconds before walking into a classroom where I can stop and think, “this is not about how well I perform today, but how this class will empower, enlighten, educate, and transform the students.” I find the best prayer is simply being of service and witness to my fellow humans, and dogs. One day-at-a-time, that has worked for me.