In worship last Sunday, we thought together about how the author of Psalm 86 followed his prayerful requests with words of praise for and affirmation of his God—even though God had not yet acted on his petitions. What hope, yes? What faith, right? Might we be so bold as to thank God midstream, I wonder?
Following the message, some of us used our silent prayer time to experiment a little. I invited us to notice whatever prayerful thoughts were arising and then to greet each one with “thank you.” Not that we’re thanking God for the challenges before us or the feelings that attend them, but rather we practiced thanking God for being with us as we experience whatever might be difficult. Engaging prayerfully this way can bring us to a place of peace and gratitude, even as what is troubling to us has not yet been resolved or redeemed.
A similar prayer practice to the one we tried on Sunday is called “The Welcoming Prayer.” It’s a simple (but not always easy) way to be present to whatever we are experiencing inwardly and to greet each feeling or thought with the same kind of graciousness that God does—without getting all tangled up in our thoughts and feelings. Here’s a link that explains this practice a bit more completely.
Although I tend to be a highly verbal person, over the years, I have found that my prayerful impulse is to keep things incredibly simple. Both the “Help me/Thank you” prayer form I mentioned on Sunday serves this sacred purpose, as does the “Welcoming Prayer” highlighted above. Sometimes I don’t use words at all but simply train a spotlight on the person or situation that has me concerned while I ask God to be present. I find this approach much more satisfying and peace-imparting. You might too!