Christianity, Religion

Experimenting with Prayer

As I’ve mentioned here before, I enjoy experimenting with different types of prayer. My first experiences with prayer were of the extemporaneous sort where you say whatever is on your heart. I then experienced salat as a Muslim in my early teens, and since then I have found it intriguing to read about, study, and try out different forms of prayer from various religions.

Growing up, the spontaneous prayer style was always a bit hard for me. I need more structured prayers because my mind wanders entirely too much when I pray.  I could start off praying for a friend’s broken car, for example,  and before long I’ll be thinking about what caused the car to break down and how cars actually work. Then I’ll start asking inward questions about different car companies and why, if cars are basically made the same way, do some cars work better and break down less frequently than others? Then I’m wondering about global car companies and how the cars are made and sent here and where they get the money for it all, and how do you get into the car business, anyway? And before long, I’ll forget I was ever praying at all!

After learning to pray salat, which involves not only recited words but bodily movements that kept me focused, I realized that there are other ways to pray aside from what I’d been taught, and that I thrived in prayer that had form and structure. After my days as a Muslim were over, I continued to search for a prayer style that fit me.

A few months ago, I learned to pray the rosary. I had been interested in the idea of praying with beads but learning to pray the rosary was the first time I’d ever taken it seriously. I really enjoyed the experience and gained alot of insight into the Catholic faith. However, what I think stood out to me the most was how quieted my mind became. I’ve always had a hard time getting my mind to “be still,” and praying the rosary was the first time that I experienced prayer without the wandering thoughts. I wanted to keep that up.

But, I’m not a Catholic. And as much as I respect and love the Catholic faith, I still don’t feel comfortable making the rosary part of my everyday prayer regimen. So, I thought of a compromise. I’ve continued to pray using rosary beads, but not actually praying the rosary. I hope my use of rosary beads isn’t offensive to the Catholic faith, but I want to share what I’ve been doing in case there are any others like me who aren’t Catholic or Orthodox but are searching for a more structured prayer style.

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At the beginning of a prayer session, between the cross and the first yellow bead, I say what I’ll call an “intention” prayer. It’s just a greeting, really, letting God know I’m getting ready to pray. I also try to think about God and get in a mindset for prayer. I tell God that I’m grateful for Him and for the blessing of being able to come to him in prayer. I also use this time to thank God for anything I want to thank him for, and I may say something like, “Lord, please consider all the prayers I am about to say as prayers for anyone who is sick or dying in the hospital right now.”I end this section on the first yellow bead by saying “in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, amen. ”
On the three beads between the two yellow beads, I pray the Jesus Prayer. This is an Orthodox Christian prayer that simply says, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I use this portion to ask God’s forgiveness for anything I know I’ve done wrong or to help me with anything I know I need to do better with.

On the second yellow bead, I pray “Glory be to the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.”

On the decades of beads, (the ten beads in a row), I pray a scripture that I want to commit to memory for the day. For example, if I had already dedicated my prayer session for all those sick and dying in the hospital, then the scripture I might be praying could be “so we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”

This is a good way to help memorize different verses of scripture because by the end of the prayer, I’ve repeated the verse fifty times.

At the end of each decade of beads, there is a yellow bead. On these yellow beads I have been praying spontaneous prayers for people or situations that I know of personally. Once I finish all five decades, I say another “Glory Be,” and where I had before said the Jesus Prayer three times, I say the Our Father three times.

On the very last bead, just before I get back to the cross again, I thank God a second time and end with “In the name of the father, and of the son…”

This style really works for me in terms of keeping me focused on the prayer I am praying and in terms of keeping my mind quiet enough to discern if God is saying something to me. Many times, while I am praying the scripture memorization portion, God will tell me what to pray for at the next “spontaneous prayer” portion. This is the first time that I’ve experienced God telling me what to pray for, so I think that’s kind of neat. I am so glad that this prayer idea came to me, because it came at a time where I was starting to feel so burned out by my failed attempts at a decent prayer life. I don’t think I ever would have thought of this if I hadn’t tried praying the rosary a few months back. So I’m very grateful!

What’s your favorite way to pray?

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Christianity, Infertility, Religion

Whatever My Lot.

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For most of my life, I have thought of self-denial as denying myself things that are pleasurable, but not spiritually beneficial for me. My first experience with self-denial came as a pre-teenager, when my mother wouldn’t let me listen to the type of music I wanted to listen to. Her explanation was that it caused me to become desensitized to a value system that was not Biblical. She did the same with movies and TV shows, telling my sisters and me what we could and couldn’t watch based on whether or not it (as she would say)”glorified sin.”

When I heard the scripture where Jesus said that his followers must “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow [him],” I naturally (and rightly) assumed it meant that a person who wanted to follow Jesus must repent of their misdeeds, stop living according to their feelings and desires, and strive to live according to the standards that Christ laid out for us. That sounds legit, right?

But I am learning that self-denial does not always mean a rejection of fun but spiritually damaging habits. Sometimes, the self-denial that Christ asks of us is much more costly.

I normally don’t get a chance to attend church on Sunday, but today, by some random twist of events, I did. One of the songs we sang this morning was a pretty popular hymn called “It is well with my soul.” The story behind the song is equally well-known. The author (Horatio Spafford) wrote this song, after a string of tragedies in which he lost his son to scarlet fever, lost his wealth in the Chicago fire, and then lost his four daughters in a ship accident.

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say: it is well. It is well with my soul. “

I’ve sung this song a million times, but today it actually meant something. I am beginning to accept my “lot” as an infertile. Of course, it makes me tremendously sad to think that I may never bear children. I daresay I am battling an increasingly severe depression. I am living through what I see as the death of a life that I have always hoped for. But God has deigned this to be, so I must deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him – whatever my lot.

When I think now of self-denial, I think not just of the trivial pleasures that some of us have such a hard time giving up. I think not just of doing the right thing, even when you feel like doing the wrong thing. I think of giving up your entire life – your plans, your ideas, your hopes, your goals – letting God destroy you for the greater good of His purposes. Self-denial is about giving up control.

I still have a long way to go. Infertility is the thorn in my side that will be a cause of heaviness and grief until I either have children, or die. But I know that my life is not about me or my plans – so I will deny myself, and I will take up my cross, and I will follow Him.

And I hope I will eventually be able to say, like Horatio, that it is well with my soul.

Christianity, Infertility

I’d Like To Thank The Academy…

Yesterday afternoon, as I left work and boarded the bus that would take me to school, I happened to notice that I was tagged in a notification by someone I barely ever speak with. As I clicked on the notification, I tried to remember if I had ever tagged this person in the past, and perhaps she was just now responding? Or perhaps she tagged me by accident? There are other Elisabeths in this particular group, after all. Or, maybe I’d done (or said) something that the group we are members of had considered inappropriate?

Imagine my absolute surprise when I saw that I’d been tagged because she wanted to let me know that I’d been nominated for this month’s Adopt-a-Blogger  prayer campaign! Whaat!? Me? I didn’t even know anyone read my blog, for one thing. And although I’d seen the blogs of other acquaintances who’d been “adopted” in the past few months – their blogs were much richer than mine! They’d had more content. More depth. More visual aesthetic. More followers. On top of that, I feel like some of the women in this group know each other personally and may have even known one another for years! I’m the newbie of the group, so for them to include me in this makes me feel like I just won an academy award.

**Huge thank you to TCIE and all those involved in nominating ThisBlindMouse! I’m honored.**

This campaign is about praying each other through our fertility challenges. I have wanted to become a mother since before I wanted to get married! I was five, and then six, when my mother gave birth to my two awesome little sisters and I can remember being so interested in the progression of her pregnancies. I wanted to be a mother, and I used to pray (even at that age!) for a natural delivery instead of a c-section! There was once a time when I pretended to “have a natural delivery” by stuffing a minnie mouse doll into my underwear and “pushing” it out. I fell asleep that way, and when my mother woke me up and asked why I had a toy in my underwear, I told her it was because I was having a natural delivery. Yeah. I was that kid.

I’ve also worked with children my entire life. Aside from being the oldest sibling and 3rd oldest of 10+ cousins on both sides of my family, I have worked in summer camps, kids gyms, elementary schools, pre-schools, and even have an early childhood education major. I study children. I work with children. I love children. I’ve always wanted about ten of them, both adopted and biological.

However, God has seen fit for me to struggle with infertility for the past four years. I say four years because it was four years ago that God told me to stop using birth control, and we began not trying/not preventing. Although my husband did not want a child four years ago, I did. I kept hoping that I would get pregnant – why else would God tell me to quit the birth control? But no such pregnancy occured (unless you count the possible chemical I had in 2011). Two years ago, my husband told me he was ready to start trying for a pregnancy and we began aggressively trying to concieve.

I was recently diagnosed with unexplained infertility (last week, actually), and I was told that the next step is to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist. I’ve also been involved with something called NaPro, at the recommendation of a few fine ladies I know, and am currently trying to figure out how best to proceed with all of this. My head has been in a whirlwind, lately. A post about that is forthcoming.

Thank you again for all your prayers! And don’t hesitate to let me know if there are things that I can be in prayer for you about, as well!