I do not know what a prayer is, though I have recited my fair share. I know it is more than a wish, or hope, or thanks. It is outward — a conversation with the universe. And inward — uncovering an intimate truth.
P-R-A-Y. Pop of lips, rip of air, long sigh of an open mouth. Pray. Move the air with your breath in the direction of another being. Will they even know you’ve done it? Can a prayer shrink a tumor? Bring success? Repair a country?
Pray because words exhaled together may shift something too cosmic for our animal brains to know or understand.
Pray because sometimes it is all you can do — when you are not the one who wields the scalpel or sews the sutures or bathes the infirm; when you are not the one placing a hand on a Bible swearing to lead a country out of chaos; when you are on the periphery of your friend’s pain, and it means something to her that you promised to do it.
“Pray not because it changes the world, but because it changes you,” my rabbi’s answer. Pray because it focuses your intention. Propels your next steps. Rebuilds your strength. Restores your equipoise.
Pray because it is a love offering. Because nothing is wasted. Because it couldn’t hurt. Pray because it is your impulse and that is reason enough.
This week, pray to fulfill the words the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke 65 years ago:
To do this job we have got to have more dedicated, consecrated, intelligent and sincere leadership. This is a tense period through which we are passing, this period of transition and there is a need all over the nation for leaders to carry on. Leaders who can somehow sympathize with and calm us and at the same time have a positive quality. We have got to have leaders of this sort who will stand by courageously and yet not run off with emotion. We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice. Not in love with publicity but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the pressing urgencies of the great cause of freedom. God give us leaders. A time like this demands great leaders.Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Aug 11, 1956, “The Birth of a New Age” Address on the Montgomery Bus Boycott
I do not know how to pray. I cannot proclaim that I believe in its power. I pray anyway. For so much.