One of my earliest memories of my late mother is of the two of us sitting in a rocking chair in my room just before bedtime.
I was about three or four years of age. She held me in her lap, and we prayed: the Our Father and the Hail Mary. We prayed for family and people dear to us. We prayed nightly that God would give me a sister, and he did.
My mother and I prayed every night at bedtime, at meals, at Sunday Mass. She gave me the gift of prayer.
Since I was a child I have prayed. Always. Even in times of doubt and disappointment and anger with God, I have prayed. I persevere in prayer.
Jesus, a person of prayer, teaches his followers to pray always. In Luke 18. 1-18, for instance, he tells his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart and give up.
He tells a story about a widow and an unjust judge from whom she seeks justice. As the widow who pleads with the judge without ceasing, so the followers of Jesus are to pray. The unjust judge gives the widow justice. If this is how the unjust judge acts, then will not God do even better for us?
We are to pray always, or to persevere in our prayer. We are never to give up, for to give up is to give up on God.
The widow’s pleading in the parable is analogous to intercessory prayer. As the Prayer Book Catechism notes, intercession is one of several forms of prayer. It might be the one that followers of Jesus today pray most often. At least I do.
God, I believe, hears all prayers and answers them in the way that is best. As I look back on my life, especially at those times when I prayed for one thing but God gave me something else, I realize now how relieved I am that God did what was best for me, not what I thought best for me at the moment of my prayer.
I know now that the greatest prayer is that of surrender to God, Thy will be done. God will always grant me justice, that which is right.
In his spiritual classic, “To Believe is to Pray,” Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey writes that prayer is “essentially our being with God, putting ourselves in his presence, being hungry and thirsty for him, wanting him, letting heart and mind and will move towards him… (p. 9).”
All prayer is essentially our being in relationship with God.
I pray always—always, in the sense that I persevere. I pray when I am in my car and waiting at a stop light. I pray before I enter a hospital room to pray for a patient. I pray before meetings. I pray with people who are seeking guidance. I pray before I read the Bible. I pray at mealtimes. I pray when I swim, when I walk or cycle early in the morning, before I go to bed, when I awaken in the night, worried about something.
I pray as I sit in a comfortable chair in the bedroom and read Morning Prayer daily. And as pray there, surrounded by books, including my mother's prayer books, I drape over my shoulders a red scarf that belonged to her. Wearing it, I am close to her, just as praying, I am close to God.
In giving me the gift of prayer, my mother gave be God.