Pray all the time. 1 Thess 5:17 (MSG)
Missing the Point – The Cliché Series – Part 2
From my years of being a Pastor, I can’t tell you how many times I said:
“I’ll be praying for you.”
It’s a good thing to say, right? If I were going to get real and honest with you guys, I’d tell you that there were times I said that to people because I didn’t have the time, capacity, or mental and emotional energy to listen to someone and then help them. I could say that I prayed for every single person I ever said that line too, but that would be a porky pie. I used this statement a lot of the time as a way to gloss over something deeper and harder.
Now, if you think praying is just saying a few lines to God about stuff or people, then sure, saying that you’ll pray for someone means something lovely. But what does it achieve? If at the end of the day I say to God, “Please help Sally from school with that hard thing she’s going through” what does that accomplish?
Of course, prayer is powerful, right? God answers prayers? The fervent prayer of a righteous person is effective?
Does God answer them all? Does he do it according to his will, or the eloquence of our words? And what is his will anyway? And what if his will means that Sally’s newborn will die? Can you change God’s mind if you pray hard and right enough?
Does God sometimes say no? Does he show up when we pray because if we don’t, he’ll stay away? And if God is all-powerful and can do anything, then why doesn’t he? If he sees our hearts and hears our cries and counts the hairs on our head, then why pray at all? He knows what we need before we even utter a single word, right?
Have you prayed about it yet?
If prayer is just a way of sending God our lists of the things we want for Christmas, because, after all, we’ve been excellent Christians this year, then we are missing the point entirely.
Prayer is not a verbal exercise. It’s not even a function of faith. It’s not someone “laying hands on you” in a church meeting.
Prayer is opening yourself up to God.
Prayer is tapping into the divine energy that got this whole thing (the earth and all its fullness) started.
Prayer is giving voice to all your questions and doubts and fears and anxieties, not so much looking for an answer, but rather finding a way to hold the tension.
Prayer is brutally honest.
Prayer is yelling and screaming and asking why until your lose your voice.
Prayer is surrender.
Prayer is stillness.
Prayer is presence.
Prayer is listening.
Prayer is hope.
Prayer is waking up to what's going on in us and around us.
Prayer is personal responsibility.
Prayer is recognizing that YOU just might be part of the answer. (You don’t pray for God to feed your neighbor if you have a fridge full of food, right?).
Prayer is knowing that there is more going on here than we could imagine.
Prayer is vulnerability and truth.
This is why more than half the Psalms are laments and poems and questions.
This is why the writer of Thessalonians (probably Paul) told his friends that they could “pray without ceasing.”
This is why Jesus begged God to take the cup he was about to drink from him. Because honestly, who in their right mind would WANT to drink it?
If prayer is sharing your moments, your life, the things you care about and cry over, the stuff that gets you good and angry, your circling doubts and weighty fears, your crippling anxieties and your most careful hopes, the blissful wonder and the joyful triumphs with the Divine? Open heart? Open hands?
Then I think the cliché just might work…
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
After all, your whole life is a prayer.