Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono /

Prayer is something most of us were exposed to as children. First, we were taught to say specific words—-almost like a magical chant. Later, as we matured, we began to realize we could think up the words for our own prayers, and most of us started asking God for specific things. I’ve had many of those sorts of prayers answered, and not always in the way I anticipated having them answered.

Here is how Rohr (The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, 2009, p. 23) defines the concept of prayer:

“I use ‘prayer’ as the umbrella word for any interior journeys or practices that allow you to experience faith, hope, and love within yourself. It is not a technique for getting things, a pious exercise that somehow makes God happy, or a requirement for entry into heaven. It is much more like practicing heaven now.”

I find these words comforting and enlightening. For the first time, I am beginning to perceive prayer as a process that occurs in many different ways, places, and fashions—-with the end result being faith, hope, and love firmly established within my soul. I no longer have to feel guilty or unworthy of God’s love because I don’t pray in specific ways at specific times. It is a relief to know that my mind has often been in a state of  prayer without even realizing it.

Knowing this makes it easier for me to redirect my “inner thoughts” to a positive focus whenever I am worried about something I cannot control. Now I know it is much more productive to focus my thoughts on something positive associated with hope, faith, and love. This positive re-focus immediately changes my perceived “now” into a much better reality. I especially like Rohr’s suggestion that this type of thinking is a form of “practicing heaven.” Visualizing and accepting heaven as a process rather than a destination full of harps, angels, and gold everywhere makes heaven much more of a viable concept for me and a place I would actually like to go….and I can be there any time I refocus my inner thoughts on something positive that helps me make God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love much more real for myself and others.

Today, as I was getting out of my car to join a colleague for lunch, my purse “snagged” a rib of my umbrella that was stored on top of the back seat of my car. The umbrella opened, and in the process of closing it, I broke one of its ribs; consequently, it is no longer a functioning umbrella. This, for me, was like a message from God reminding me that my “prayer umbrella” still needs my effort and acceptance of God’s gifts in order for my inner being to reflect faith, hope, and love to the point that I can begin to “practice heaven” on earth.

Please share your thoughts about having a “built in umbrella” of prayer. Thank you—-may God bless and keep you.