The content of your life is the content of your prayer. Your life is your prayer. And maybe your life is God’s prayer, too.
Some of us have been taught that prayer is what we do when we set aside the distractions of daily life and have a focused conversation with God “out there.” Maybe we think we’re supposed to read a holy book as part of our prayer, or say special words that are reserved for times of prayer. We talk, God listens.
But the great contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, once said that, “I am myself a word spoken by God.” And similarly, Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner said that it’s as though “in prayer we experience ourselves as the ones spoken by God,” that “we are ourselves . . . the utterance … of God which listens to itself.” *
I love this idea that God is speaking us into existence and is always in dialogue with our whole being, including every thing that happens in our lives. If God is speaking through the events of our lives, then listening to the events of our lives becomes an act of listening to God and listening for God.
Sometimes the most powerful prayer might include:
- thinking about our experiences—reflecting on them honestly;
- noticing our emotions—acknowledging our drives and impulses;
- and then turning them over to God—opening our awareness to God’s presence and love.
A prayer process like this reflects three classic types of prayer in the Christian tradition: reflective (thoughts), affective (emotions), and contemplative (open-space for God).
We might imagine that we are “just thinking,” but sometimes a focused meditation on particular experiences might be more significant in our faith development than a more scripted prayer.
Going through a prayer process like this might be called “praying our experiences,” as Brother Joseph Schmidt calls it in his great little book by that name: Praying Our Experiences: An Invitation to Open Our Lives to God.
Consider the possibility that your life is your prayer and that God is speaking to you through it.
If you’d like to listen to a podcast, here is an 8-minute description of the process of Praying Your Experiences, taken from a sermon I recently preached at St. James Presbyterian Church.
*Merton and Rahner quoted in Schmidt, Joseph F., Praying Our Experiences: An Invitation to Open Our Lives to God (Kindle Locations 715-723). The Word Among Us Press. Kindle Edition.