Prayer

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“We all pray whether we think of it as praying or not. The odd silence we fall into when something very beautiful is happening, or something very good or something very bad. The “Ah-h-h-h!” that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when a skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at someone else’s pain.  The stammer of joy at someone else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with and over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way.  These are all spoken, not just to ourselves, but to something even more familiar than ourselves and even more strange than the world.  (Fredrick Buechner, Beyond Words).

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I love Buechner’s opening explanation on prayer. It does operate under the baseline assumption that not only is someone always with us, but someone is listening to us, and someone always cares.  Prayers, properly understood, are therefore a part of our lives long before we hear any formal prayers in worship or even over meals.

Jesus taught us to pray constantly.  Jesus also regularly took himself away, even when “work needed to be done” or when “he needed to get some sleep” to pray.  Jesus considered prayer that important.  Yet, sometimes it is difficult to pray.  Sometimes we intend to pray and the day slips away before us.  We can easily fall into thinking that we will pray – later – when we have time for it.

Churches need to be houses of prayer – not just prayers being offered but full of guides on how to pray.  Our homes can be focal points of prayer.  Our days can be peppered and spiced with little prayers all along.  It may be just like any exercise, the more we do it, the easier and more natural it becomes.

The more we are in dialogue with the One who made us, the more we will find the path we need to be on.  The more we talk to anyone, including God, the more likely we will find ourselves put at ease in such conversations.  The more we pray the less lonely or overwhelmed we will feel.

And yet, at times, it can be difficult.  We can ask for things and they do not happen.  We can find ourselves trying to “force prayers” into small spaces of time where we are not feeling very spiritual.  We can struggle to find what to say when we feel, or we can feel we are being repetitive, because we have said what we want to say to God before.  We can feel what our prayers are leading us to do is the exact opposite of what we want to do.  Being  called to pray doesn’t mean that prayer is easy.  At one point, Jesus is literally sweating blood while praying.  And we can feel guilty for not praying or not praying enough.

In the end, I don’t think God wants prayer to be yet another weight on us to carry or even a checklist item on our “to do” list along with all our other chores.  Prayer is meant to build us up, to help us, to give us peace, and to give us direction.  Prayers are also meant to be given together, to express ourselves to God together – as a society, as churches, as families, and as couples.

What do you think?  Do you find prayer to give you energy or is it hard?  Do you find it natural or do you find it difficult?  Different people have different experiences with it.  And yet, somehow it is meant for all of us.

Until next time,

Tom

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