The Practice of Prayer

The Practice of Prayer

Advent #8


“Practice makes perfect”.  We have all heard this phrase and, if we are honest, most of us have had it said to us at some point…maybe at several points in our life.  The phrase was first found written in a diary of the second president of the United States of America, John Adams.  In this diary which is also an autobiography, Adam quotes the Latin “Uses promptos facit”.  This is generally translated as “Use makes Perfect” which is actually incorrect.  Yes, ever since 1761 we have been incorrectly interpreting a Latin phrase based upon the skill or lack thereof of a former statesman who needed to review his Latin.


With all honor and respect to former President John Adams, perhaps he should have practiced his Latin just a wee bit more.  Of course, Latin is a language that was seldom spoken and translations of such languages are subject to colloquialisms and interpretations.  I do find it ironic that for three hundred and thirty nine years, this phrase has been considered to read “Use makes Perfect” when it literally says “Use makes ready.” 


The irony of this mistranslation is not lost on me, especially since it references getting something “perfect”.  It is a fact, however, that practicing something does improve one’s skill.  When it comes to prayer, use does make one ready and the more we pray the closer we come to our understanding and exercising our faith.


“Practice makes perfect” is not just a proverb from England.  It is also the name of a nonprofit educational organization that partners with schools to establish summer learning opportunities in what they consider to be “high-need communities”.  Mentors who are usually high-achieving students are paired with younger less successful students from the same neighborhoods.  This peer training is producing some great results.  Additionally, field trips to local museums, galleries, and other venues also serve to enhance the educational gains these students are making.  They not only study and learn, they see the results of what an education can accomplish and provide.


Some of the students in the Practice Makes Perfect program have never been to a local city park, even though it might be just a few blocks from their house.  Some of us have never really felt the impact of a sincere smile or imagine anyone would care enough to pray for a stranger.  In this time where people are willing to kill innocent strangers, praying for one seems almost absurd.  And yet, these are the situations in which we are needed to trust in our beliefs, to practice what we preach and/or hear preached.


The musical “Annie” is famous for the song “Tomorrow”.  The chorus says it all:  “The sun will come out, tomorrow.  Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun.  Just thinking about tomorrow, clears away the cobwebs and the sorrows, till there’s none.  Tomorrow, tomorrow; I love ya, tomorrow.  You’re only a day away.”


In preparing for the post entitled “A Selfish Prayer” (yesterday’s post), I came across a statement that said basically that a selfish prayer was one that did not include another person.  That posed an interesting question to me.  Do we sometimes talk to ourselves and consider that praying?  Prayer should, in my humble opinion, include someone or something else.  I do not consider talking to myself (and yes, I do that) praying.  When I make a request to the deity I worship, I am including someone else because I am talking to someone or something else.


Should every prayer include a request for somebody besides the person doing the praying?  Ideally, I would like to think we are always thinking of others.  Truthfully, I admit that when it looks like a car is about to hit me, I pray to be saved.  I do not always think of the other driver and when I do…well, it is not always with a kind thought or prayer. 


Practice makes perfect and someday perhaps it will make praying for the other person a subconscious habit.  For now, I will keep practicing.  I’ll practice my prayers, tomorrow.  Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, I will pray.  Just practicing prayer, clears away the cobwebs and the sorrows, till there’s none.  Tomorrow, tomorrow; I’ll practice prayer tomorrow.  Life’s better when we practice and pray.


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