There’s something I’ve noticed lately and that is that more people are using the word pray.

Pray for me. Say a prayer for me. Say a prayer for … I wouldn’t go so far as to say that prayer has become hip or chic, but I most certainly have heard people I never would have imagined talking about prayer.

Seems I got into the business at the right time.

I know why this is happening. I see it all around me every day. People are struggling on profound levels. I can name three women here in this town who became widowed in the last few months. One of them lost a son a year ago. I know someone who lost two sons in the past few years and I have a friend whose mother and father died in tragic circumstances, a year apart. “My cancer, when they diagnosed it, was Stage 4,” my friend who is in his late 30s told me at the Brick the other day. We were having a baby when I was starting chemo.”

A friend of mine who lives in the south told me about the tornado in Alabama … it was a category EF4 (on a scale of 0-5), which “doesn’t happen often,” he said. A thousand houses disappeared in a town that is dirt poor. Flashbacks to Paradise, California and the people I met there whose entire town was burned to the ground.

I’m sure I could craft a really neat theory around why these things are happening. I have a gut sense about things and I am weirdly tuned-in to the energetic forces of this life. Obviously I have no idea if we are all marching toward some collective, global meltdown, but it does feel as if things are moving in a darker, more challenging direction.

Have we degraded our planet and subsequently our bodies to the point of no return? Have we paid so little attention to the political workings of our countries for so long that now we are prisoners of sinister and demented leadership? It feels like most of us are deeply enmeshed in our own personal narratives, unwilling to put them aside to use our energy to counterbalance the darkness. I have said many times here in this little corner of the WWW that I believe that’s the way, but I also see clearly that most people are only motivated to step out of their little river when they are personally affected, when they are gobsmacked by a tragedy of their own. Sometimes that causes a person to shift their life toward a greater good, not always.

I’m not really here to rant about any of that this morning. I came to talk about prayer.

I am as certain as I can possibly be that there are benevolent forces at work in our lives, available to us all the time. Many of us call this God, but that’s a bit lazy. It’s a word and unfortunately one with a shitload of negative associations. You don’t have to call it that. Call it … cotton candy. Call it … summer. Call it … love. Call it something that gives you warm and wonderful feelings. See it that way. Because even though bad things happen all the time, the love is there, present and accessible.

Prayer is what happens when we specifically engage that loving energy. It’s like a junior high school dance. God is that cute girl standing over against the wall, the one you’ve seen in the library and buying chocolate milk in the cafeteria. You need to go over and reach out a hand and say hi, this is a good song, want to dance?

That seems to be kind of the thing about this good energy: it seeks invitation.

The thing about God is that God never says no. When you reach out God reaches back. You might not feel it immediately. God may be busy in that moment, might send an angel or archangel to help you, but God is infinitely hospitable and will not ignore your request.

You’ll probably need to be patient.

Let me clear something up about prayer. You know how you talk to yourself all the time? In the kitchen, in the shower, in the car. Maybe not so much anymore now that you have a phone to distract yourself all day and all night, but you know what I mean. Prayer can be just like that, an ongoing conversation with God/love/cotton candy/summertime. It does not have to be done when you are on your knees in a church or with a priest or shaman. There is no right or wrong when it comes to praying, at all. Ever. There are, indeed, angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity, all the time, everywhere, all around us. Talk to them, they need work. Your life is their job.

Prayer is a conversation with the source of love and light around you.

I need help is a great prayer. Thanks for a car that runs is another one. Please get my dad through surgery is mine today. Keep an eye on Gretta and no more seizures, please another.

I have a long prayer list, not surprisingly. Get Sam and his team safely to and from Jackson Hole. Help our family navigate this tricky high school decision. Help us figure out how to help Emily … you don’t have enough time for my prayer list. That’s why it’s mine.

I encourage you to have your own. To stop at some point in your day, every day, and have a little conversation with blue sky/bumblebee/mountaintop/fresh peach/God. Thanks is a really good prayer, most often forgotten. We mostly turn to prayer when bad things are happening. We seem to feel we have everything in control and don’t need help when all is well but call in the celestial stormtroopers when things go south. The car is sliding off the road, the kid has a high temperature … help help help. It’s also a good idea to take a look around every once in a while and say thanks thanks thanks.

All of that is prayer.

Can we draw a line from praying to the good outcome? If we want to we can. What have we got to lose? A life predicated in randomness and disconnectedness doesn’t feel like much of a life. Of course we are mired here in something good. Of course bad things happen. Of course we are given opportunities to make good choices. Of course our soul seeks evolution. Of course we are here to help each other, to hold babies, to bring the soup, to tend to the hungry, to comfort the lonely, to try to solve the problems of homelessness and poverty. And we can’t do this in isolation; we’re not supposed to.

Hopefully you don’t really believe it begins and ends with you and me. Because that’s hilarious.

There are, indeed, indications that things are falling apart around us. People are suffering in ways that seem weirdly unfair, it’s too much. I have theories about the poisons in the world around us and the food we eat, and I’m especially concerned about what our cell phones are doing to us. I have a suspicion we are going to see a steady rise in brain-related illnesses like Epilepsy in the years to come. I think we’re frying ourselves with these things. We’ll know more in twenty or thirty years; you and I and our kids are the guinea pigs.

What to do? Pray. Shut the phone off for a nice chunk of time each day. Most certainly don’t keep in next to your bed at night. Pray. Reach a hand out to someone you know needs it. Pray. Don’t be afraid. It’s easy. Pray.

I’ll warm things up.

Hey God.
I saw the stars last night while I was out walking Daisy, right when they were poking through the darkness and it was so pretty, those little pinholes of light. The snow on the Adirondacks this morning is really great, too. High-five.
I stayed up way too late watching Better Things because that Pamela Adlon is such a great fucking actress (God doesn’t care if you swear, btw). Thank you.
I’m a little tired today but I have to head to the hospital anyway, to help Mom and Dad.
Give me patience. Keep them safe.
Thank you.
Don’t let me walk past someone who needs my help today, ok?
Thank you.
Also, I would be totally psyched if you made it a little warmer, but I know you’re not into party tricks. Just thought I’d mention it anyway.
Amen.