Andrea Ayvazian: How to pray? Start with ‘thanks’

  • Andrea Ayvazian FILE PHOTO

Published: 11/20/2020 3:54:15 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 3:54:01 PM

Twelve words. In one of my favorite books, “Naked Spirituality,” Brian McLaren presents a framework for understanding the spiritual life, offering up 12 words that can begin simple prayers and eventually anchor an ongoing meditative practice. I give “Naked Spirituality” to anyone who tells me they don’t know how to pray. McLaren’s 12 words can inspire simple prayers that roll off the tongue, gladden the heart and comfort the soul.

Stripping down prayer to its bare essentials and avoiding fancy language, McLaren invites the reader to start prayers with these words: here, thanks, O, sorry, help, please, when, no, why, behold, yes, with the final suggestion being just silence.

For me, the one word in McLaren’s list that I use most often to begin prayers is “thanks.” I am aware that the theologian Meister Eckhart once wrote, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, that would be enough.”

Inspired by McLaren and Eckhart and aware that Thanksgiving is approaching, this column is dedicated to the word “thanks.” My list is of thank yous is not exhaustive, nor is it in any significant order, but it is heartfelt and sincere. Let me start by saying: Thank you, reader, for continuing to read.

Thank you to all kids currently “attending” school on a computer, thank you for your effort and patience. Thank you to all teachers currently teaching school on a computer, thank you for your dedication and creativity.

Thank you to everyone who wrote postcards and letters, sent texts, made calls and canvassed in-person to reclaim the White House and increase the level of sanity and civility in this nation. Thank you to all poll watchers, and thank you to election officials who counted ballots into the night, the next morning and beyond.

Thank you to all human service agencies, survival centers, food banks and homeless shelters that have stayed open over these last many months. Thank you to those who staff hotlines — providing a lifeline, a listening ear and good counsel to those in need.

Thank you to safety monitors who have increased the peace at marches and rallies, to postal workers who have delivered packages and mail, and to my dentist who reopened and saw me last week when I had a toothache.

Thank you to everyone who voted. Thank you to those who voted for the first time.

Thank you to all cashiers at grocery stores, to those staffing COVID testing venues and to neighbors who have been faithfully looking in on neighbors.

Thank you to all clergy holding services online, thank you to the United Way for creating a diaper bank, thank you to all musicians who keep writing songs and putting them online for free.

Thank you for Greta.

Thank you to our remarkable Western Mass legislative delegation for their tireless progressive leadership.

Thank you to all pets that have brought companionship and comfort to so many during the pandemic.

Thank you to the Gazette for continuing to publish. Thank you to Van Jones for crying on national TV when Joe Biden won. Thank you, Biden, for winning. Thank you, Kamala Harris, for being courageous.

Thank you for Look Park and Mt. Tom.

Thank you to my sister and her wife — for everything.

Thank you to every person who wears a mask. Thank you to every person who believes in science.

Thank you to every weatherperson on TV who said the series of floods and fires ravaging this country were due to climate change.

Thank you for conversations on porches, in backyards and driveways. Thank you for friends.

Thank you for Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Trevor Noah.

Thank you for everyone who put a BLACK LIVES MATTER sign on their lawn or in their window.

Thank you for the eruption of joy during the spontaneous downtown celebration when Joe and Kamala won. Thank you for the cheering, drumming, honking, dancing and weeping. Thank you to the clumps of people waving the American flag and the Pride flag while holding Biden signs.

Thank you to Quonquont Farm for the flowers.

Thank you to the twins who live across the street for the air hugs and one hilarious snowperson.

Thank you to the creators of Zoom.

Thank you for a memorable Halloween with long shoots made out of pipes and other unbelievably creative candy delivery contraptions.

Thank you to everyone who works at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Thank you to River Valley market, Northampton Bicycle and State Street Fruit Store.

Thank you to all the young people who painted the new mural reflecting diversity and empowerment on the bike path in Northampton.

Thank you to all employees in town offices, and thank you to the Pedal People.

Thank you to the libraries delivering books and Instacart delivering food.

Thank you, George W. Bush, for calling Joe Biden and recognizing the Biden-Harris victory.

Thank you to the people raking the lawns of elderly neighbors. Thank you for movement elders.

Thank you to Jo and Ann for sending me poems by email. Thank you to my husband for enduring my rants about Trump, and also for joining in.

Thank you to Haymarket Cafe for serving countless reduced-rate and free meals since the pandemic began.

Thank you to this community for all acts of kindness, for being unfailingly generous, for finding ways to cling to hope, for lifting prayers and for imagining a world transformed. Thank you for the deep goodness in your weary hearts. Thank you friends and neighbors. Bless you all.

The Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian of Northampton is a member of the ministerial leadership team at Alden Baptist Church in Springfield. She is also the founder and director of the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership.


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