If you are in a foxhole with little chance of getting out unscathed you may well offer a desperate prayer for help. There are a lot of foxholes of health and wealth and family. Desperate petitions may be the only kind of prayer we ever try. But other kinds may be very helpful in daily living.
Gratitude is a kind of prayer that can make life a lot better. I know a person is very physically handicapped who makes a habit of thinking of three things every morning that he is grateful for. Strengthened by gratitude he overcomes the inevitable frustrations and difficulties of being disabled and he has accomplished outstanding work. His unfailing morale and courage and determination seem to be related to the spirit of gratitude that empowers his daily living.
Praise is closely similar. It expresses feelings of delight and awe and well-being when we are moved by the intelligence and benevolence and beauty of nature and humanity. It is a response to the Creator within and beyond us. The advice of the character in the movie Life of Brian, “Try to look on the bright side,” is more than a joke. It actually works.
Confession is another kind of prayer that can change life. If one gets locked into totally blaming others for what has gone wrong it is likely to be unrealistic and debilitating. More often than not we share some responsibility for the wrongs we suffer. Confessing our share releases some of the hatred that can cripple our well-being. The truth, as they say, will set you free.
You might think you are not a religious person—gratitude and praise and confession are just natural things that happen for you. However, if you made them a more frequent and intentional part of your life you might be better for it. Prayer does not have to be super- religious. Jesus said “when you pray go into your private place and shut the door and pray to (the Creator) in secret and (the Creator) who sees in secret will reward you “(Matt.6: 6).
Getting in touch with the Creator makes life more grounded in reality and more meaningful. Human life is basically a covenant between us and the Creator who calls all people to cooperate in the work of the creation, making it as good as possible. When we make it a habit to get in touch with the Creator with gratitude and praise and confession we may find the Creator getting in touch with us. It is called Inspiration. It is called guidance. It might even be called hunches that turn out to be right. Christians might call it Pentecostal moments. If we listen to the Creator Spirit in us and beyond us it will change daily living. As the classic advice in Green Eggs and Ham put it—“Try it, try it, and you will see.”
Paul Newman is a retired minister of The United Church of Canada.
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, June 16 2018