A Thanksgiving reflection by our Micah Fellow, Patrick Kangrga:
Q. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words.
Q. What is Christian Prayer?
A. Christian prayer is response of God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Q. What are the principle kinds of prayer?
A. The principle kinds of prayer are adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.
Q. For what do we offer thanksgiving?
A. Thanksgiving is offered to God for all the blessings of this life, for our redemption, and for whatever draws us closer to God.”
-The Book of Common Prayer (The Catechism)
I know many good Episcopalians and I like to believe that I am one myself. But like many Episcopalians and all Christians, I oftentimes find it hard to pray. Prayer is an odd thing in the church for it is a communal and yet deeply personal act.
And prayer though an essential part of the Christian life is not exactly something you can teach. It is not clear and to the point like an algebraic formula or something simple that everyone can learn like how to follow a recipe. This is probably why we do not take a few weeks out of our Sunday School or Adult Education to teach a class on how to pray.
Prayer is not something that we teach and learn as much as something that we live and experience. It’s not in the Sunday School room or in our sanctuary where we understand what prayer is and how to do it. Prayer is birthed out of those moments where we find ourselves saying, “My God!” My God, how awesome it is to know such joy and love. My God, I don’t think I can bear life anymore…It’s just so hard. We learn to pray because our hearts are so full of love that adoration, praise, oblation, and thanksgiving are inevitable. We learn to pray because our hearts are so full of grief that all we can do is be penitent and ask for God to intercede in our lives and offer petitions for others who need the same.
When my prayer life is at its best, I will sit down late at night and pray Evening Prayer (BCP-pgs. 115-126). Some of my favorite parts of the Book of Common Prayer are located in this simple but profound service that is intended both for corporate and for individual and family worship. Like many of the forms of worship in the Episcopal tradition it contains “The Great Thanksgiving.” I pray the following and I hope you will come to pray it as well:
…We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord, Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives…