06 April 2017

Ceasefire Prayer

A few weeks ago I participated in an online yoga class. The teacher is a member of the body positive movement and the class was being offered as part of National Eating Disorders Awareness week so the teacher said a few words before the class started.

One of the things she said that stayed with me was that she treats her yoga mat as a ceasefire zone. All of the negative cultural messages about being fat, all of the disordered thinking around what shape she 'should' be are left behind while she is on the mat. She focuses on what she can do and on being present in her body as it is now.

I've been thinking about her words for weeks now and they inspired me to start a home prayer routine. In the past, my prayer life has been sporadic and impulsive.

My relationship to prayer has been complicated because I don't believe that God gives us things, or heals us, or any of the other tropes about the power of prayer. I believe that prayer is more like going to a therapist. It is a way to work on personal issues and to open myself up to opportunities to be brave in my life. It is a way to gain courage and a way to think about what I have done wrong and what I could do better in the future. Giving that all to God as part of prayer helps me remember who I want to be.

Much as I feel I don't need a therapist when I'm healthy and happy, it is hard to remember to make time for prayer when things are going well. However, therapists, be they mental or physical, frequently give patients homework to do to improve their lot.

Daily prayer for me has be come like doing my physical therapy exercises, if I do them every day I become stronger and less prone to injury.

Prayer keeps the muscles of my faith strong which in turn gives me the spiritual energy and resilience I need to be in order to be present and active in this world even when it is painful. Prayer reminds me to be my best self, to be brave, and to do things that are out of my comfort zone.

My prayer routine has become my own ceasefire in the cycle of news, stress, and anxiety. It is a time when I can give my worries to God with no expectation that God will do anything more than listen-- and that is enough to give me strength to go on.

This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe in April 2017.

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