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Monday, September 10, 2012

Prayer

When I was little and growing up as a Catholic, I memorized all the prayers Catholics said before bed, when waking up, before meals, after meals, during and after being in a confessional, all throughout the mass, and no doubt during other situations I found myself in. I would add all sorts of names of individual people and animals to those I prayed for. I asked for help from Mother Mary, Jesus (tho' as a kid I didn't want to bother Him much), St. Joseph, my Guardian Angels, various Saints, and others up in Heaven. All and all, taking into account that I said even more prayers when at my Parochial grade school, and when going to an all-girls Catholic high school, it's suffice to say I said A LOT of prayers as I grew into adulthood.

Around age 10 or so it occurred to me that much time was spent praying for various, needy situations and folks. I got the keen idea that I'd start off the prayer I wanted to say and then finish with, "and all that stuff," rather than list each situation and person individually. This seemed fair enough. After all, I reasoned, "They" knew what and who I meant.

Somewhere between the end of high school and beginning my years at a Jesuit university, I pretty much stopped praying. I got the idea that God knew what was in my heart and that I didn't need to spell it all out for Him or anyone else 'Over There,' for that matter. Besides, I was busy: dating, putting on make-up, working odd jobs, studying...all important stuff, you know...

Once I had children I taught them both how to say some of the prayers that I knew as a Catholic. It just seemed the 'right' foundation to give them. Now that I think of it, I pretty much concentrated on prayers before bed with them and not all the rest that I had learned as a child. Interestingly, I still didn't say many of my own prayers during that time, other than the occasional, "Please help me, God," which could be conveniently shortened to "Help!" when necessary during an emergency. And then there's my "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph"...a plea for 'whatever,' if there ever was one! And yes, I'd throw in a random "Hail Mary" when flying on an airplane and even very occasionally said a whole rosary every few years. I was also attending Catholic mass with the kids but I can attest that what I was saying by rote with the congregation was not something I was solemnly ingesting or thinking much about. Still, saying those prayers at mass with all the others was somehow calming and felt like a welcoming 'hug.' I do know that then as now I love ritual, so it makes sense that I was comforted by the rituals of my childhood. Sadly, however, prayers of thanks to God were few and far between for many of my early adult years, and if said at all were blurted out 'on the fly.'

And here I am now, many years after my children were little, and a fully Ordained Minister, at that. Oh how the times did change for me. What I realized at some point in my adulthood was that I missed out on conversing with God/Source/Universe/Divine during all those 'prayer-barren' years. What a shame! I missed out on acknowledging that I was truly watched over and unconditionally loved. Oh, I'm sure somewhere within I knew this, but it's so much better to be AWARE and fully ALIVE, taking in the huge meaning of such a personal relationship with God.

Now to be honest, I'm not totally sure exactly what made me crave a one-on-one dialogue with Source again. But in the last 6+ years I can understand my want, especially given the Spiritual paths I found myself walking on and given what I was learning and experiencing. Perhaps it was the various hardships in my adult life that brought me back. No matter what, I AM GRATEFUL!

There's a special little book by Alan Cohen, "Handle with Prayer - Harnessing the Power to Make Your Dreams Come Through," that I'd like to highly recommend to anyone interested. In it he writes, "The most powerful prayer is not the longest, but the simplest. God is not impressed by fancy words, or cajoled by dense rhetoric." Mr. Cohen adds, "If your prayer comes from your heart, your communication is sent and received in one holy instant, and your answer will be manifested quickly. To offer a prayer that will reach heaven and the heart of God: Keep it simple. Keep it pure. Keep it you."

"Prayer helps us to respond to misfortune with courage, 
to react with confidence and to rebound with ENTHUSIASM."
~William Arthur Ward

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