Deacon Blog March 7, 2021
I know we’re all familiar with the three Lenten pillars: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. While we focus on these three this time of year (Lent), they are, in fact, the foundation of authentic Christian life. Whatever your feelings are on this, I’m confident that we all agree that prayer is the most common and universal activity of humanity, after eating and sleeping of course. Studies show that easily 95% of all people pray in some form or another, including atheists. There seems to be a primal desire to express or communicate our deepest thoughts to someone, or something. We like to joke that “Church” people do it (pray) for a living, but in reality, we all engage in expressing the feelings and needs dearest to our hearts… to “Someone” we can trust and feel safe with. This week, I want to visit the activity we call ‘prayer’ and try to understand why it is so essential for us as Christians. Essential enough that without it, meaningful relationship with our Creator is virtually impossible.
For many, prayer is ‘petitional’, we want things. Health, safety, money, love, companionship…peace. Even when I try not to, I struggle, at times, to pray without asking for something. Think of our kids when they come to us, especially when they are younger. They’re always in need of something. How often do they just come up and say, “What do you need, how can I help?”. Petition is a common thread of the parent-child relationship. But, in our prayer, the ‘parent’ is “omniscient” or all knowing. HE knows our needs and requests before we do. Psalm 139 says, “ O Lord, You search me and You know me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar…Even before a thought is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it altogether”.
So, why make the effort to pray at all? I know this feeling can be a source of “dryness” in our prayer. If GOD knows all “these things” (needs and requests), what’s the use in asking? And if the prayers are not answered the way we desire, do we say “Why bother? HE’s just going to do what HE wants anyways”. While there is a logic there, let’s explore another way to view prayer and its role in our spiritual life. Again, because Prayer is so important to divine relationship, it cannot be ignored because we aren’t “feeling it”. As well, we should never assume that GOD isn’t interested in our thoughts. We should begin with the knowledge that GOD desires our company so much HE acquired eternal life for us, through HIS SON, so we could be together. So, what should our prayer life be focused on? If each of us are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, assume that a divine conversation is always in play between GOD and HIS Holy Spirit, similar to the way we interact with our own thoughts. Maybe part of our efforts in prayer should involve us tapping into this dialogue. If you’ve ever walked up into the middle of someone else’s conversation, you know that just showing up and ‘butting in’ is a good way to look foolish. Instead, it’s better to ‘lean in’ and learn the topic first, before we speak. In other words, silence is needed to fit into this conversation. Try this when you approach your time of prayer. Breathe deeply a few times, whisper “Speak LORD, your servant is listening” and continue this way, silently, for five minutes, then…speak if you still need to. Voice your thoughts, frustrations, pain, AND gratitude with your heart, but focus on being present to the divine conversation. When you are done, rise and move forward with an awareness of “Here I am Lord… send me” (Isaiah 6:8). HE knows what we want, what we need, and what is best for us, and… HE is generous. HIS ways are not our ways, so if we struggle to hear HIS voice, try a “different way”. Prayer is important enough for us not to become frustrated or give up trying to ‘hear’ HIM. HIS is a voice of gentleness and strength more natural to the ears of children than the adult way. Prayer, perseverance, and desire ‘tunes’ our frequency to HIS.
This may seem a bit “cosmic”, but trust me, it comes from someone who did too much “talking” in my prayer life for too many years. Too much asking, too much demanding (at times), and too many of my expectations. It’s liberating to gain the trust and confidence that I will be taken care of, and that all I need do is be present and available to HIM. I have cast off the burden of “figuring out” the next step and being saddened by the failure to produce my agenda. Prayer with GOD is not a “to-do” list, it is “state-of-being” with LOVE itself. A “state-of-being” that longs for our happiness, our peace, and our joy. LENT is the “hearing-aid”.
GOD Bless You ALL