Contributor: Rev. Sean Dennison
It started as a kind of challenge: was it possible to pray in a meaningful way in only 140 characters? I’m a Unitarian Universalist minister and we have a reputation for being verbose—using a LOT of huge words—and enjoying hearing ourselves talk. So when my friend asked, “Hey, can you express your most important hopes in just 140 characters,” I was hooked.
At first it was hard. It was hard to remember to do it every day. It was hard to distill my thoughts down to something simple and succinct. It was hard to get to the point. It was hard to let go of my desire to explain what I meant when I said “God” or “Love” or “Forgiveness.” It was hard not to apologize for the days I forgot or for prayers full of typos.
Eventually—and I mean after a year or two—it stopped being a struggle and began to feel like a gift. Every day, my daily prayer is a chance to center myself on something bigger than my problems, pain, or even my successes. Every day, I stop and try to connect to what my heart is holding, what is most important to me. As the writer, Ann Lamott noted, the three essential prayers are “Help, Thanks, and Wow.” Every day, I think “Which one do I need to say today?”
That reminder to center myself is a real gift, but it’s not the only one. It’s been five years now, and I am more and more amazed by the power of a seemingly small spiritual practice to keep me grounded, keep my spirit strong, and keep me connected to others. As the prayers are shared more widely, I’ve begun to hear from other people. They almost always express wonder that one of the short little prayers “said exactly what I needed to hear.” Each time that happens, I’m reminded that I’m not alone. Everything I do to take care of myself as I heal from personal and social violence, is not just for me but for all of us. As a survivor of Hurricane Katrina said so clearly, “All of us need all of us to make it.”