Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Praying Unceasingly

For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you....     (Colossians 1:9)

This is the beginning of a very beautiful prayer.  It is the kind of prayer I would love someone to pray for me.  But, after re-reading it, I am struck by this idea of praying unceasingly for someone.  Some form of this idea is embedded in the introduction of most of Paul's letters.  And I think this idea is promoted elsewhere in the Bible as well.  I've wondered about this before.  How can someone pray unceasingly?  How is that even possible?

Perhaps this phrase jumped out at me as I read the Lectionary this morning because the thought has crossed my mind a couple of times in the last couple of days that I need to pray more often for other people.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but most of my prayer life consists of supplication or gratitude over my own concerns.   How can this be when so many friends and family members are in poor health or worried about other people in their lives, not to mention the suffering of people around the world?  I may not be able to heal them or solve their problems, but I can pray for them.

Usually, however, I only think to do this at church on Sunday morning, or when someone's needs have been brought to my immediate attention.  Lately, I've been thinking that I should pray for others daily.  Now, I'm wondering if I should try to keep other people in my mind throughout the day.  But, how does one do this in the midst of all the comings and goings of life?

I like the idea of carrying something with me as a sort of memory aide.  Catholics use a rosary to help them remember to pray specific prayers.   Googling "rosary beads," I learned that a rosary consists of as few as ten beads, or as many as fifty.  After every ten beads (and ten Hail Mary's), a different bead, or a cross, signals a new prayer, and another cycle.  Primarily, rosaries are used to pray to Mary while remembering the life of Jesus, but rosaries are sometimes used to pray the Psalms (50 beads three times around equals the 150 Psalms).  I was fascinated to also read that Mary is called the "Undoer of Knots."  That is, the undoer of  the many, many difficulties that worry us.

I thought about buying a set of rosary beads, although I'm not Catholic.  But, not wanting to spend the money, I searched through my jewelry box for something else I might use, and found a pretty necklace of 25 flat, round, vibrantly-colored beads that feel very smooth to the touch.  I tied one of my crosses to the big round pendant bead with a piece of embroidery thread, knotting it over and over again.  Then, I clasped the necklace together so that it won't come apart. 

I like my prayer beads.  I can hold the beads, or I can keep them in my pocket.  I can simply remember other people when I feel the beads as a whole.  Or, I can pray for people bead by bead:  with each bead I will think of a particular person and pray for them; when I come to the spiral clasp I will pray for people around the world; and when I come to the pendant bead with the cross knotted to it, signifying the greatest Undoers of Knots, I will center myself with the Lord's Prayer. Hopefully, these will help me remember to think of other people more often, at least, more often than I have done.

Ironically, I have been so concerned about my children not thinking outside of themselves very often.  Like the pot calling the kettle black, I see that I too need to work on this.

Dear God, thank you for showing me what I need to learn, and for helping me find a way to stay connected to the many other people who also need your healing presence throughout the day.  Love always, Pam

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