–by Sarah Carson

Gather readers, I have some exciting news for you: This issue of Gather could change your life.

I know, I know. You’re used to seeing these kinds of claims on the covers of magazines at the supermarket check-out. You’re skeptical.

You’re asking yourself, Has Gather really become another in the long line of magazines promising to make your life perfect, easy, stress-free?

No. It has not.

But I do believe this issue could change your life—because it has already changed mine.

You see, the July/August issue you hold in your hands (or view on the screen of your electronic device) contains the second and third sessions of our three-part Bible study series on prayer. It’s a series that investigates what prayer is and how we and God are shaped by the practice.

It’s also a series that has forced me to reckon with a truth about myself: Praying doesn’t come naturally to me—not when I’m alone or when I’m in church on Sunday mornings. As the “Prayers of the People” are read, I often find myself shifting restlessly, eager to move on to communion.

And I’m not alone. As Anna Madsen writes, “many mainline denominations (like Lutheran churches) tend to ‘intellectualize’ faith and ‘make [faith] a matter of belief: Does it make sense? Is it rational?’” (p. 39).

For over-thinkers like me, this is not a recipe for a good prayer life. Add to this the fact that, as Betty Landis shares, “…a human has about 60,000 thoughts daily, 90 percent of which are repetitive. For many people, most of these repetitive thoughts are negative. Prayer is one of the many practices […] that people use successfully to bring about positive change” (p. 24).

I began to wonder, Was my over-thinking getting in the way of a relationship with the divine?

Luckily for me (and perhaps for you!) this issue is packed with suggested ways to get out of your head and to speak from your heart. Whether it’s a “Creation prayer”—in which one notices “the beauty and workings of nature, art, music, literature, science, humor, etc.” (p. 37); a prayer for one’s eight-legged “enemy” (p. 20); or a prayer of grief and lament in the face of grave uncertainty (p. 6), this issue contains the stories of people learning to pray in ways that are most suited
to their own stories and circumstances, to a God who is always there, always listening and speaking.

So has this issue made me better at praying?

Am I suddenly going to be volunteering to say the blessing at the next church potluck?

Probably not. But as I tried new ways of praying, my prayers became, as Anna Madsen puts it, “a laser beam in a cloud, a loud voice through a din, a locator ping for a lost device” (p. 29).

In learning from the women who contributed to this issue, I have resumed a relationship with the Creator that I’d allowed my busy-ness, my work, my favorite television shows, my own inner monologue to get in the way of.

And as Ann Fritschel points out, “When you are in a relationship, you need to communicate with each other to share your difficulties and what is happening in your life. In a good conversation, you listen as well” (p. 9).

So will this issue make prayer easier for you? Will you be leading your congregation’s next prayer retreat?


But could this issue change your life?

I certainly hope so.

Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather.

This article is from the July/August 2018 issue of Gather magazine. To read the full story or more like it, subscribe to Gather.