Some of my earliest, deeply formational experiences of prayer came when visiting my grandmother. Every night, she would turn on a lamp in the middle room. She expected anyone in the house to pull a chair up close. Opening her Bible across her knees, she read aloud the Scripture assigned for the day by her Upper Room devotional guide and the accompanying printed meditation. Then, in the language of her own piety, she prayed for her church and family, her friends and neighbors, and finally for herself.
It was astonishing for me to hear my grandmother ask God to make her a better person. She was one of the best people I knew. She invited the rest of us to pray. She asked Jesus to protect those she loved. My grandmother closed her evening prayers with everyone praying the Lord’s Prayer together.
As my grandmother lay dying, my daddy sat by her bed. Her Bible was open across his knees, and The Upper Room was in his hands. He prayed her evening prayers with her and for her. When he came to pray the Lord’s Prayer – even when the brain tumor had destroyed much of her brain – she would moan, reach for my daddy’s hand, and squeeze her approval.
A mark of being a person of faith is praying to our God, praying over and over again until the shape of our prayerful words and actions permeates our very being. Being with God in prayer sustains us in life, in death, and in the life beyond our death.
What did I learn from my grandmother’s prayer? A mark of being a person of faith is praying to our God, praying over and over again until the shape of our prayerful words and actions permeates our very being. Being with God in prayer sustains us in life, in death, and in the life beyond our death. We know we are not alone.
God creates us for relationship; God initiates our prayer. The very yearning that arises in us to pray has its origins in God’s loving desire to know us and to be known by us. Like any experience of love and intimacy, a prayerful relationship with God takes practice. Often, in “getting acquainted” prayer, we begin with speech. We pray at mealtime and at bedtime. We memorize the Lord’s Prayer. We say aloud the prayers of the church at worship.
And then we begin to notice something is missing. The possibility of listening arises. Have you ever noticed that the more intimacy we share with someone, the more silence the relationship can hold? We begin to rest in God’s presence.
Over time, prayer moves us from doing to being to serving. Prayer frees us to live as the beloved of God, yearning for God’s company, filled with compassion for God’s people, returning to rest in God’s presence, until we become, in death, all prayer.
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Rev. Gina Gilland Campbell is Canon Precentor of Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. Canon Campbell has responsibility and oversight for all worship in the life of the Cathedral.Campbell is an ordained United Methodist minister with 36 years of experience serving Methodist congregations. She also has more than 30 years of experience as a nationally recognized consultant in family systems and the impact of systems work in the church.