I am sitting in my bedroom where I have a little prayer corner. It is early on Sunday morning. The children are still asleep. Although it is cold outside, I have the window cracked open. I am swaddled in a dressing gown. I am listening to the sounds: a wood pigeon’s coo, a crow’s caw, the songs of various smaller birds I cannot identify, traffic in the distance, a quiet hum whose provenance I cannot work out.
I am not a good person: failure and shame.
Prayer is not a self-improvement programme. You, God, are here. Listening to the sounds is prayer – not merely an awareness exercise on the way to prayer, to something ‘deeper’. I breathe and my chest expands literally and metaphorically. I feel it as the expansion of my rib-cage as the breath enters my lungs, and as opening my heart-and-chest to You. We are listening to the sounds of Your world, You and I. What more is necessary?
Life is not a self-improvement programme, and I do not need to be better or do better. In the end, prayer – life – is just being with You. What is better that this?
Prayer is not a self-improvement programme. To relax fully is to be myself fully. All tension comes from trying to be something I am not. Just now I do not need to be a better person, to get somewhere other than where I am, to be someone other than who I am.
When I open my chest-and-heart to You I know I have arrived.