Why do you pray?
“Why do you pray?”
“Because it is the only way I can figure out who I am.”
My surprising response to my friend’s rhetorical question was heartfelt-perhaps too weighty to be understood by one who had not, like me, chosen to spend a large segment of their life without God. Being a lifelong Christian provides a uniquely different foundation from that of us who wander around believing that the world around us is a result of random and mechanistic forces. Boundaries, meaning, moral consequences that are mostly absent without God.
Having decided to walk away from religion and decide that God was a myth at eighteen, I determined that I would find wisdom. Wisdom meant college, many years of study. Where else could wisdom be found?
Many years later, when I had achieved a great deal of material success in terms of money, something approaching fame in my small specialized corner of the healthcare world and access to that most desirable of titles, ‘Doctor,’ instead of the wisdom I had fought so very hard to attain, I felt only emptiness, confusion and a certainty that I had absolutely no idea who I was.
The unraveling was hard won.
Chiefs of powerful medical departments who one day barely noticed my existence, but literally on the next became ingratiating because I now held the purse-strings to their budget, former superiors who turned from treating me with patent condescension to fawning upon the publication of a best-selling book featuring me – the book possibly becoming a movie.
It was all straw, that wonderful comment by St.Thomas Aquinas when asked why he would not complete the Summa. Far greater accomplishments than mine, but I glimpse why he said it- in a most intimate way. Why do you pray?
Those were only a few of the events that ended-finally- in a return to that 18- year-old girl, listening to an Episcopalian priest assert that faith began with humility. Only this time, she did not walk away in disgust; this time she dropped to her knees in recognition that there was only One who knew, One Person who could tell her who she was.
All these years later, during these last ten days of the Easter season and the upcoming celebration of Pentecost, I am celebrating something that I never believed could happen. Not to me anyway. Although I saw-even wrote about the parallels between writing and praying.the process of the two becoming one was so subtle that I became aware of the merger only when I answered affirmatively the question ‘Do you see writing as a spiritual practice?’ during a recent author interview .
Ora et Labora, the motto of the Benedictines. Remarkable when the disparate jigsaw shaped pieces of our lives begin to fall into place, isn’t it?
Why do you pray?