Tag Archives: prayer

Answer your own prayers: Pray in present tense

Some years ago I read a valuable piece of advice: frame your prayers in the present tense.

You wouldn`t believe the difference it makes.

Six years ago doctors diagnosed my friend, Lynn, with terminal cancer. She was 41 years old with two young children. The news shocked her, and her family and friends. Prayers bubbled up from all of us, because in circumstances like that, prayers just happen. They can`t be helped.

My first prayer was for Lynn to live. Then, when I read the present tense advice, the prayer changed to “Lynn lives.” With a shock I realized that my prayer was already answered! No matter what happened the next week, or the next month, or the next year, at that moment, Lynn lived. My prayer changed from a plea of desperation to a celebration of gratitude, a “seize the day” motivational expression of wow. It took me out of the victim role, passively waiting for an outside force to act, and put me in the active role of celebrant. It encouraged me to savour every moment with my friend.

So many prayers come out of on-our-knees times of desperation. “Powers that be, please give me the strength to get through this,” we pray. But if we change that to “I have the strength to get through this,” instead of feeling helpless and overwhelmed, suddenly the strength we seek infuses us, and we rise from our knees renewed.

Now, I can hear the shouts of protest now. Critics will say, “Lady, you are crazy. What if I don’t have a job but desperately need one? If I say, ‘I have a job,’ I don’t suddenly and miraculously have a job.” True. But, maybe if you say, “I have a job” you will go to your next job interview with calm assurance instead of discouraged desperation. Maybe that will help.

Or someone else might say, “What if I want a red Porsche? If I close my eyes and say, ‘I have a red Porsche,’ when I open my eyes, there won’t be a shiny car in my driveway.” True, but if you say, “I have a red Porsche” over and over again often enough, maybe it will motivate you to start setting the money aside in a special fund. Maybe you’ll start browsing used car sites until you find the right one. Maybe it will help.

If you pray in the present tense, you might be surprised how often you answer your own prayers. The present tense:

  • opens our eyes to the gifts of the moment
  • infuses us with strength we didn’t know we had
  • relieves our stress and desperation and fills us with calm assurance
  • motivates us to work toward a goal.

A year ago yesterday my friend, Lynn, passed away. I grieved, for sure, because I missed my friend. I watched two teenagers lose a parent. I watched her husband lose a spouse and become a father/mother overnight. It was hard. But it was just that titch better because I had spent the previous five years celebrating her life in present tense every single day.

rainbow

There are no atheists in combines

Earlier this week, Ray Como of Alberta fell into a combine. This piece of machinery, for those unfamiliar with farm equipment, harvests grain crops. It cuts the stalks and separates the grain kernels from the straw. The grain stays in a holding tank while the straw shoots out the back onto the field to be baled later. To do such work, the inside of a combine is a complex arrangement of rotating blades, wheels, sieves, and elevators. (The wonderful people at Green Tech Ag & Turf Inc. in Richmond let me climb up and have a look.) 

Inside a combine

 

When 82-year-old Ray Como bent over a little too far, fell into his combine and found himself hanging upside-down, he tried to use his arm strength to push himself back up, but he wasn’t strong enough. He then tried to climb down and turn himself around, but he only succeeded in getting himself more tangled. He was stuck. Helpless. 

According to the Postmedia News article printed in the Ottawa Citizen, “Never much of a religious man, he began to pray.” 

Ah, there we go.

Like the word “God,” the word “prayer” raises people’s hackles. In recent years I’ve had many discussions with friends about prayer. Some point to the selfishness of prayer, asking for material goods or for events to swing our way, often to the detriment of others. Others, who didn’t have their prayers answered, or at least not yet or in the way they expected, say prayer is pointless—never does any good anyway. My atheist friends dismiss prayer derisively as unscientific. 

I believe that prayer is innate and that we all do it.

 

It is so easy, from a position of comfort, to say that prayer or religion is for the weak, for those who can’t summon the power from within themselves to muddle through. It is so easy, from a position of comfort, to feel oneself invincible and able to handle whatever life throws your way. 

That is arrogance, and I think that the greater weakness is believing oneself to be invincible. Someday, someway, life will tackle you like a Saskatchewan Rough Rider linebacker. Someday, someway, you will close your eyes and say, “Please, oh please.” 

What Ray Como discovered, hanging upside-down in his combine, is that sometimes we don’t have enough physical strength to cope. Sometimes the constraints in our environment prevent us from moving. When we’re alone, and we can’t move, and our body presses up against cold metal, and the hours stretch into darkness, and the temperature dips close to freezing, we pray. 

Anybody would. Everybody would.

It wouldn’t matter if the plea were addressed to anything or anyone in particular. Muslims would talk to Allah; Christians to God or Jesus; atheists would think, “What am I doing? I don’t even believe in God.” But they would pray. 

Perhaps we know, at some innate level, what quantum physics shows us—there’s a whole lot going on out there that boggles the mind. Perhaps our prayers do ripple out through the waves of the universe. 

When the Saskatchewan Rough Rider linebacker of life comes your way, sends you flying, knocks the wind out of you—oomph—and you find yourself doubled over whispering, “Please, oh please,” know that you’re doing what anybody would do in those circumstances; what everybody would do. Because, it seems, we can’t help but pray.