Prayer is a perfect, one-size-fits-all gift

When it comes to prayer, many folks think they’re doing it wrong. We may glance at others in church and suspect they’ve got the perfect technique, while we’re merely stumbling along.

Still, a simple morning prayer is “Thank you, God, for another day.” In the evening, we can look back on the day with gratitude for small, but significant, blessings, such as a delicious cup of coffee, a flower in the garden, the sound of birdsong.

Many children believe that prayer means asking God for things, so he becomes a version of Santa Claus, as kids make a list and wait for results.

A teen may pray to pass a test, get a date for the dance and be chosen for the team. Although it’s easy to become disappointed, when God doesn’t deliver, we can look back at our lives and see how things ultimately worked out.

Perhaps we didn’t get the job we wanted, but an even better one came along. Maybe we didn’t get into the college of our dreams, but met a future spouse at a different school.

Having spent time with sisters in Mother Teresa’s religious order, the Missionaries of Charity, I can attest that they never ask for material things.

The sisters gladly accepted presents to better the lives of the suffering people they helped, but requested only prayers for themselves. Plus, they gave volunteers the gift of prayers in their little chapel with a note on the blackboard: “Pray for Jeff and Lorraine.”

It’s commonplace to pray for relatives diagnosed with cancer, and for friends who’ve lost their home in a storm, as long as we remember the words spoken by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“Father, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, but thy will be done.” This was a true prayer from the heart from someone who knew that he was facing crucifixion, a slow and agonizing suffocation. Adding “thy will be done” to every prayer acknowledges our humility before God.

Something mysterious happens when we pray, even when petitions aren’t answered as we expected. “Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself,” said Mother Teresa.

As our hearts become more attuned to others, we become more compassionate toward them. For me, keeping a prayer list reveals the various struggles people face, such as grief, depression, poverty, marital issues and health problems.

Some folks on my list move from serious illnesses to death, while others are healed. Some situations seem to drag on forever, as with family members stuck in bleak situations.

We tend to pray for people we know, but we can also pray when we hear sirens, because someone might be seriously injured. We can storm heaven for the suffering people in Afghanistan, Haiti and New Orleans.

As we drive long, we can pray for the person hobbling painfully down the sidewalk with a cane. Or petition God for someone we knew decades ago, who might need help that day.

Prayers cost us nothing but time. They are the perfect present, since they don’t need wrapping and they are one-size-fits all. Best of all, they have no expiration date.

Lorraine’s email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com.