By Claire Bischoff
Where and when and with whom in your life are you most yourself? Where and when and with whom in your life do you meet God?
Until I was seventeen, I did not think that prayer was for me. All prayer meant at that time was going to church and reciting things I did not have to think about since I had been doing it for as long as I could remember. When I prayed at mass, it seemed to have almost nothing to do with my life. But then I took a class on prayer and spirituality, and everything changed.
On an overnight retreat for the class, the teacher took the time to name where he saw God in each of his students. He observed that he saw God in me when I performed my floor routine at gymnastics meets. In my eleven years of doing gymnastics, I had never thought about it that way before, but my teacher was right. When I was performing, I forgot about everything else in my life, lived in the moment, reveled in the wonderful ways the body moves, and connected with my deepest self. And in connecting with my deepest self, I also connected to God. I came to understand my gymnastics routines as offerings to God, as celebrations of the joy of life.
Since that time, I have heard other people talk about being the most themselves and meeting God when they play music or sing, go for a run or shoot baskets, paint or sculpt. Prayer does not need to involve words or memorization or recitation. Things that we love to do in life, things that restore our souls, things through which we can be our best selves: these actions can be prayers. While it is important to pray as part of a community, this is not the only way to pray. We can pray while we are living our lives, which means God can be part of everything we do.
In this week’s Gospel (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus tells a parable about wise and foolish girls waiting for a bridegroom. The story encourages us to think about who is wise and who is foolish as we await the reign of God. One way to be wise is to work on living prayerfully, that is, with God in mind as we go about our days. If we learn to see God in the details of our everyday lives, we do not need to fear that we will run out of oil for our torches like the foolish girls in Jesus’ parable. Finding ways to pray that are authentic to who we are as individuals, as well as finding ways to connect with community through prayer, insures that we will have the oil we need for our torches to be lit.
What are your favorite ways to pray?
What is your favorite thing to do in your free time? How could this activity be prayer?