My Prayer Ritual

Grace-Eric Engstrom

Grace, Eric Engstrom

When I pray for someone who is sick, I hold her in my heart and lift her spirit up to God. But when I am praying for fifty people, as I often do, there’s the risk of getting distracted at approximately person number fifteen, and then my prayer becomes rote. It’s more like taking attendance than engaging in a sacred act of love and submission. Rather than rejoicing in God’s salvation and emerging from prayer joyful and refreshed, I rush to get the praying over with so I can move on to the next task on my to-do list.

Thus I always begin my morning prayer with this bit of scripture from the Book of Romans (chapter 8, verse 26):

The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech.

Then I pray, using the Lord’s Prayer as a sort of outline:

Our Father, who art in Heaven—God, present with me at this time and in this place…

Hallowed be thy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul. All that is within me, praise your holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all your benefits. You forgive all my sins and heal all my diseases; you redeem my life from the pit and crown me with love and compassion. You satisfy my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s. [Adapted from Psalm 103]

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven…. This is where I go to my list—yes, I have a written list of the names of people I wish to pray for—and I ask God to illuminate every path, heal every wound, restore their innocence, and bless our relationships. I whisper their names and picture their faces, shining with the love of God. Sometimes I imagine them joining hands, one by one, in a great circle of light.

Give us this day, our daily bread…. Here I pray for my own challenges and difficulties and envision them being transformed.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…. Now I give my regrets, frustrations, and shortcomings wholeheartedly to God. If I feel that someone has wronged me, I try to see that person as God created him, as an innocent, expectant child. I realize that he too has been battered about by the world and the capriciousness of life, and I bless and forgive him. I might have to do this more than once… maybe even seventy times seven.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. May we be happy. May we be safe. May we be well. May we be peaceful and at ease. [Adapted from metta meditation]

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever…. I express my gratitude here. If I’m feeling snarly or put-upon, this too might require a list. Sometimes I have to start with something like, “God, I thank you that my pancreas is working properly. I’m grateful that my bedbug infestation is a thing of the distant past.” After I’ve thanked God for oxygen and sunlight, I can usually lift my mood with thoughts of dear and faithful friends, of disasters I’ve been rescued from, and of the ways I can be of genuine service to others.

Amen is usually translated as, “So be it,” but I don’t see it as an ending. Rather it signifies my intention to “pray without ceasing,” so that if my elevated spirit deflates after an hour or two I can slip back into prayerfulness without having to sit down and bow my head. So I translate Amen as “to be continued.”

My period of “formal” prayer requires about half an hour, and I’d be lying if I said that I pray this way every day. I can tell you that if I pray first thing in the morning, my day goes better than if I wake up agitated and feeling that I’m running behind. But if it’s the middle of the day before I get around to praying, then that time becomes my “morning,” a time of starting over, of being hopeful, and of renewal.

What’s your prayer ritual?


Morning Ritual

Getting Ready from the Inside Out

exhausted_mom_istockQ. Dear Sister Alma Rose — I am a faithful reader of Sister Alma Rose Has the Last Word, and you have convinced me of the importance of frequent prayer and meditation; but I am having trouble finding the time! It is always rush-rush-rush in the morning and rush-rush-rush in the evening, and, by the time the children are asleep, I’m wiped out. Can you give me some advice? — Signed, Pooped in Ponca City

A. Dear Pooped — Even if you have time during your work day to meditate, which Sister Alma Rose is intuiting you haven’t got on account of it looks like your modus operandi is rush-rush-rush (but in any event, see Sister Alma Rose’s Lunchtime Meditation and Sister Alma Rose’s Walking Meditation featuring Fats Domino), it is always a good idea to start the day with prayer and meditation. Maybe, if y’all did that, y’all would be calm and focused enough to ambulate purposefully instead of rush-rush-rushing, which, Sister Alma Rose supposes, involves hurried and inadequate nourishment and the inability to find your keys or a pair of clean undies, and so forth.

teenage_girl_bruthsing_teethSister Alma Rose also supposes that you find time to brush your teeth before you leave the house, and you probably scrub too hard and when you get a little older the dentist will say that you have damaged your gums and tooth enamel what with all that scrubbing. In any event, Sister Alma Rose is certain that you would be more READY to start your day after prayer and meditation than after hasty and perhaps harmful tooth-brushing.

Morning ritual

Sister Alma Rose is a great believer in ritual. A ritual is one step up from a routine. A ritual is a routine infused with sacred purpose. Sister Alma Rose’s ritual infuses her entire day with sacred purpose — not, perhaps, so anyone could see it from the outside. Y’all wouldn’t look at Sister Alma Rose bustling about at 2 in the afternoon and be saying to yourself, “Goodness, how I admire the way Sister Alma Rose infuses her day with sacred purpose.” Nevertheless, Sister Alma Rose is always (usually) conscious of the presence of the Almighty in each action and in every encounter. At least that is her intention.

Sister Alma Rose calls her morning ritual “getting ready from the inside out.” She begins by (1) feeding and tending to her spirit, through prayer and meditation. Then she (2) feeds and tends to her body — by performing her morning ablutions, eating a healthful breakfast, and going for a walk. Then she (3) feeds and tends to any who are in her care and (4) tends to her environment, doing whatever tidying up and washing up and pulling of noxious weeds, and so forth, are necessary.

Sister Alma Rose’s Morning Prayer and Meditation

One of the fine advantages of a routine or a ritual is that it’s somewhat automatic. You don’t have to waste time and tempt Satan’s spawn whose name is Procrastination by deciding what needs to be done and in what order. Imagine if, every time y’all got in the car to go somewhere, you had to figure out how to drive all over again. Fortunately for most of us, driving is routine.


Routines and rituals need to be reexamined now and again to make sure they’re still serving their purpose. For prayer, Sister Alma Rose makes use of (and has for a good length of time made use of) a Prayer Pattern. At the same location as the prayer pattern are (1) music that Sister Alma Rose likes to pray to and (2) the names of the folks she’s praying for.

Sister Alma Rose prays for a great number of people. Sometimes she does an imaging sort of prayer wherein she feels divine love and healing entering through a white light as she inhales, and when she exhales she expresses her prayer for each person by a warm light that reaches from her heart to the other person’s heart. Sometimes she pictures those she prays for standing in the Valley of the Sunrise as the first morning rays cleanse and sanctify each of them. Sometimes she just mentally says their names and hopes God will understand.

Sister Alma Rose does not intend for y’all to put “prayer and meditation” on a checklist and then DO prayer and meditation and then cross it off your list and forget about it. There is great need and there are many opportunities to refresh your spirit during the day, even if it’s when you are waiting in line or stuck in traffic. It takes less time and energy, and it is more productive of peace and harmony, to pray serenely when you are stopped at a red light and the driver in front of you — who presumably was able to procure a driver’s license for her broom only by casting a powerful spell upon the DMV personnel — is looking into the rear-view mirror and applying lipstick when the light changes, and is no more cognizant that the light has changed than she is that the earth is revolving around the sun at a speed of 18.5 miles per second — than it is to honk the horn and flip her off. Sister Alma Rose knows this to be true. She has tried it both ways. To this day, she occasionally croaks “ribbit” for no apparent reason, always at inappropriate times, as if there were an appropriate time to croak “ribbit” when one is a respectable lady in the prime of one’s life.