Most mornings I grind and steep coffee and then stumble into my home office to write, mug in hand. I light a candle. Say a prayer.
Light of the World:
Fill my words with your Spirit. In the same way light radiates into the surrounding wax from the blazing wick, ignite my words with power, heat, truth, and love that they might incite wonder and beauty in others. That they might transform, heal, and bring hope. That they may point back to You, the Light of the World.
This morning, praying the above prayer a second time I said the words my life instead of my words. Ahh!
My last two blogs (here and here) contained suggestions for ordinary practices meant for staying grounded in daily life during extremely unusual circumstances. Today I offer the most ordinary of practices.
Praying is not as hard as we make it. It’s putting one word next to another. It’s talking with God. And sometimes you don’t even have to use words.
It’s believing in prayer that’s hard.
Why pray? Doesn’t God already know about the pandemic?
A few years ago I worried I might have lost my calling as a pastor. Locked in a depression, I had not talked with anyone about my fear. Even God. Then one Tuesday morning I decided to go to a Bible study at a pastor friend’s church. I vaguely hoped there’d be encouragement there. I was disappointed to learn my friend was on vacation and one of his elders was leading. I couldn’t get up and walk out.
“Instead of our scheduled passage, let’s talk about Romans 11:29-32,” the elder said.
I groaned inside. He read: “. . . for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” God spoke. “This is for you, Eugene. Take it. I know your doubts. I have chosen you. That call is forever. And no matter how hard the road, I am with you.”
God knows our needs even better than we do. God doesn’t need us to pray.
We need to pray because prayer is more relational than transactional. Prayer is more than asking God for stuff. “Hey, God, can I have twenty bucks for the movies?”
Walter Wangerin, Jr. writes prayer is a full conversation: God speaking/us listening. Us speaking/God listening. Prayer then is a face to face conversation that draws us into a relationship with God. And it’s hard to have a relationship with a vending machine.
God intends prayer not to be simply talking but also a partnership. God gave us two hands. In one is our work and in the other is prayer. Both are tools for partnering with God in the care of the world. In prayer we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Maker of the Universe in the daily maintenance of our worlds. God gives our lives meaning and purpose through this partnership.
My best memories of my late father are when the two of us built a fence in the horse pasture one summer. My dad didn’t need my help. In fact as an eight or nine-year-old, I was probably a hinderance. But he made me his partner.
“Hold this, Eugene. Good, now cut the wire.”
Working with him, I learned his values and vision for life. I grew. Later I came to realize that also was how dad expressed his love for me. By working with me. Fifty years later that truth and that fence are still standing.
But prayer is not only a working relationship. It is designed to foster profound intimacy with God. In this way, prayer is to our relationship with God as sex is to a relationship with a spouse. Stay with me!
Like sex, prayer can skim along the surface and be about what you get out of it. Or it can be intimate, vulnerable, passionate, diving deep into the mystery of two becoming one. See Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. This intimacy, however, is dangerous and difficult. So we abstain or settle for mere prayer requests. While God sits waiting to dig into our hearts. And we remain alone and fearful.
This intimacy is God’s answer to our fear and aloneness. Prayer is God’s ultimate way to be with us.
And out of that intimacy, we may ask for what we need. We know Abba is listening and cares.
So today, talk with God. Let God hear your hurts and fears. Listen for God’s answer. But ask too. Pray for those on the front lines in this battle against COVID-19. Pray for the vulnerable. For those who have lost loved ones. For our leaders to wield the wisdom of God.
Will God rebuke COVID-19 just as Jesus stopped the storm on the Sea of Galilee by rebuking it? I don’t know. I hope!
As you have weathered this trying time, how has God spoken to you? Are there any passages of scripture God has spoken to you through. People? Sermons? Books? Post what God has spoken to you in the comments. And also what you are talking to God about. All of us, God included, want to hear from you.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
Pray the Psalms.
Turn a favorite Bible passage into a daily prayer.
Pray the prayers of Paul in Ephesians or Philippians.
Use the Book of Common Prayer as a guide.
A friend of mine, Jeff Gayle, built an app called Daily Prayer that is beautiful and helpful.
Ransomed Heart ministries developed an app called Pause.
Write your own.
The YouVersion Bible app has prayers on it too.