Like most people who receive this sort of book, I opened it and thumbed through it in less than ten minutes. Then I put it on my bookshelf promising myself to give it a more serious look later, before promptlty forgetting it.
The other day, I ran across it while looking for something else and I flipped it open again. It's not really my kind of book. I tend to like a little more meat on the bone of my reading. But having recently gone through Bible classes at church, I guess I was a spiritual reading mode, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to read some inspirational quotes.
In this book, they had an excerpt from Robert Fulgham that struck me. He told a story of a man he saw everyday sitting in the park from one to two in the afternoon, quietly talking to himself. Overcome with curiosity, he had asked what he was doing.
The man answered that he was praying the alphabet. He explained that he would sit there, for an hour a day, reciting the alphabet over and over, leaving it to God to arrange the letters in a proper prayer, figuring that He could handle it and understand.
A quick internet search finds various versions of this story, mostly involving young children who want to pray. Not knowing how, they recite the alphabet, the only thing they know.
Personally, I've never believed that there was a 'right' or 'wrong' way to pray. I've always suspected that there are almost as many ways to pray as there are people who do so.
There are times when it is easy. When everything is going well in your life, it's the simplest thing in the world to express gratitude to God, and when sudden pain or trauma vistis, it's perfectly natural to reach out to God for help, strength and guidance.
Of course, there are other times when it's more of a challenge. When life has worn you down, when your brain has gone numb, when your hope and faith seem to have been misplaced like a rarely worn pair of shoes. It's these times that it becomes more difficult to pray.
These are the times that we rely on the more ritualized forms of prayer. We recite the Rosary, the Lords Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, or any number of familiar words and forms. Usually, these are enough to get us through, but, at times, even these can fail to bring comfort.
But are the words we use to pray really so important? The Bible tells us that God knows what we have need of before we ask. (Matthew 6:8)
Perhaps, at the darkest of times, when the clouds have seemingly rolled in to stay, when it is difficult to discern what is right from what is wrong, when thoughts become confused and muddled, it would be best to keep our prayers simple. To sit quietly, peacefully, and reverently reciting the alphabet, trusting that God knows what you need even if you don't. Trusting that He will find a way.