As summer draws to a close and I know that those “lazy, hazy,” out of the ordinary days must end, I look across the glossy tanned bodies of eclectic people in their “itsy bitsy teeny weeny” sometimes non-existent bikinis, to the stretch of sandy beach and beyond, to the sea….the blue, the green, the brown and grey of it; the crashing, the calm, the choppiness, the smooth and the roll of it….and I wish that summer would never end.
“I wish summer wouldn’t end,” I overheard my grandchildren speaking. Which got me thinking again.
Sometimes I drift into the quiet of my mind and I hear my heart urgently longing for something. Sometimes it’s wishful thinking knowing I have no control over whether I’m going to get it and sometimes its earnest, honest asking which becomes prayer. What makes one thought a wish, an expression of a person’s will or hope, and what makes a different kind of thought into prayer?
Whether big or small, frivolous or grave, we all have “wishes” that we’ve uttered quietly or loudly and that weigh on our hearts depending on our circumstances. We wish for good health, a cure, better living conditions, a promotion, the perfect house, the perfect mate, a job, success in exams, the moment to never end, a good night’s rest, an end to violence, an invitation to the prom, a visit from an offspring, a phone call…all valid desires that consume us with the outcome. But when does a desire for a definite outcome turn into prayer?
The difference in a wish and a prayer is in who receives it. Prayer is communication, and communication needs a sender and a receiver. And when there is a sender and a receiver it becomes a conversation. A conversation implies a relationship. A relationship involves trust. A wish, on the other hand, is just wanting something to come true without becoming personally involved. I cannot will something to happen without taking concrete action myself. To turn a wish into a prayer requires me to communicate. It requires conversation with a being who understands me; who makes me feel safe to share myself honestly —about my dreams, my hopes, weaknesses and failures, without trust being broken or having to fear that my words will be used against me later on. It becomes the kind of conversation that satisfies and a relationship that gratifies.
Simply put, prayer is a matter of asking for help from a person whom I trust and who is in a position to take action. If I were to ask my friend Mary to pick up my children from school, I am trusting her and in a sense I am praying for her to do so. And when I ask God to help me through some hardship, or to bless a couple, or to help another through hardship, I’m not simply wishing that outcome; I’m asking someone in a position to do something. And as one who puts her trust in God, that someone is the Divine.
Prayer requires sincerity towards myself, towards others and towards the Divine. It is an attitude turned to hope and the future. I believe in hope not because it makes hard things easier, but because it has the unique ability to make impossible things reality. No other emotion or form of motivation has the power to change the world than the indescribable drive that comes from completely immersing oneself in the hope and trust for a better tomorrow. It has limitless power because it is not derived from tangible or measurable substance. Hope can make the weak strong, the poor rich, and the lonely loved.
Not everyone prays, but just about everyone wishes and wants, all desiring the outcome of some circumstances and dreading others. Those who put their trust in the Divine somehow react to the circumstance (whether frivolous or grave) with gratitude, and turn that gratefulness, and that wanting and willing, into prayer. For those who really pray know that it’s not just about getting what we want. It’s about a relationship of growing in the deep knowledge and infinite love of an ever present divine being. You can’t just wish for that.
Secretly, I hope, and will, and wish, that as I write this, my readers will identify with my words. Words born of moments. Moments that take me back to days when I would wish upon a shooting star in the clear night skies of summers past. Moments of wishful thinking that today I shed light on something true about the experience of praying, and hoping, and wishing, and willing.
“What do you wish for ‘Meema’?” asked my grandchildren. “I too wish for summer to never end,” I said as we ran toward the waters of the sea shouting “last one in will have to shower me with kisses!”
Prayer: a practice of communicating with one’s god.
Wish: a desire, hope, or longing for something or for something to happen.