parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

November 2019

About Prayer

 

For all the bumbling that Jesus’ disciples did, and all the competition and hard-headedness that they displayed, they got some very important things right. One was about the importance of prayer, even if they did not always practice this faithfully. (Luke 22: 39-46)

 

You notice that the disciples, as far as we know, never asked Jesus, “Lord teach us how to be busier. Lord, teach us how to multitask and manage our heavy agendas more effectively.” No, they did ask Jesus however, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” They witnessed the regularity with which Jesus prayed; they witnessed his enduring commitment to prayer and quickly understood something of its importance in Jesus’ life and ministry. The disciples longed for the intimacy they witnessed Jesus having with God and wanted in on this grace. (Luke 11:1)

 

My ministry colleague Rev. Alcris has brought a refreshing emphasis on diverse opportunities for prayer (e.g. Prayer for people with cancer). Prayer, to quote St. Clement of Alexandria, is “keeping company with God.” In speaking with and listening to and for God, we are responding to God’s invitation to a loving and faith-filled relationship. In addition to that invitation, we are also questing after that same intimacy with God. Deep down we know we cannot keep up the way we are going. So busy, so frazzled, so insecure, so anxious, so wounded, so self-absorbed, so fearful, driven and out of breath… God longs for us to get the memo that we are not called to achieve our life but rather to receive it. I am still trying to learn this lesson. What I know is that when I am trying to achieve my life, a constant companion is disappointment; I can never achieve enough. Those times when I trust God enough to receive my life, then I find myself in the enduring company of gratitude for who God is and what God is achieving in my life and in the world. This sense of God’s good bestowal upon us is illustrated by Jesus’ vocabulary: we inherit the Kingdom of God…we do not buy it, earn it, deserve it. We inherit it.

 

 


Prayer keeps us linked deeply with God and God’s purposes for us and for the world. Prayer helps us discern what we must pray for and how we might act to join God in answering the prayer. Prayer also reveals the hidden and sometimes “ugly” parts of ourselves; the parts we would rather not admit to. They are brought to the light of our consciousness and offered to God. The promise of God’s response of healing, forgiveness and transformation, is to be trusted.

 

We are best able to partner with God to work on the unseemly parts of ourselves if we are experiencing and trusting the love of God. We know deep down that we need to receive love in order to give it. Pastor and scholar Dr. Craig Barnes writes: “Not only do we have to receive the love of God in order to give love to others, but we also have to receive it in order to work in freedom. As long as we are working without a conviction that we are already cherished, we will try to manipulate the workplace into our source of self-esteem…God loves us not as a necessity, but as a choice.”

 

Jesus modeled for us how to remain connected to God, corrected by God and directed by God. In our prayer life with God, we can “keep it real” as the teenagers used to say. Prayer for others, prayer for peace and justice, prayer for blessing and healing and salvation, prayers of thanksgiving and joy, prayers for crises in the world…there is so much for which to pray. The truth is that sometimes prayer is hard. Of course it is often rewarding and grounding and all that; but truth be told, sometimes it can be boring and seem tedious. It is a mark of God’s grace and our commitment to knowing and loving God, and to the biblical summons to pray, that we persist and surprisingly reap unexpected blessings of consolation, wonder, insight, discernment and healing. As


well, we reap the joy of witnessing transformation and blessing in others for whom we and our congregation prays. God’s Spirit has promised to accompany us and help us in our praying and in our life…trust this promise and welcome this presence.

 

In Philip Yancey’s book called Prayer, he writes: “keep it honest, keep it simple, keep it up.” I invite you to engage with the following prayer exercise.

 

A prayer exercise: Psalm 46:10

 

Take a quiet moment and find a still place at home, work or out of doors… Once there, take a couple of minutes to settle and then sit comfortably and start to breathe deeply and slowly. Let go of distractions and try to be in the “now” moment. Trust the One who promises…“I will be with you always” and “I will never leave you or forsake you” to indeed be with you now.

 

This may or may not be new for you. Just sit quietly and let God know you are ready to listen for God’s “voice”…ready to be open to God’s Spirit.

 

Continue to breathe slowly…let the sheer silence envelope you….and listen. Keep breathing slowly….slowly

 

As thoughts come, just treat them as leaves floating on the river and let them float away… Just let your thoughts go and only focus on the longing you have to hear from God, to experience God...at some point that longing will give way to the awareness of an actual experience of God’s presence.

You may say: how will I know. You will know. It may not happen the first time or second time you do this…or it may. Try to set aside at least twenty minutes for this. There is no magic formula here, it is rather trusting God to draw near to us as God has promised to do.

I invite you to do this regularly and intentionally for at least seven days. After each day take time to note (write, remember) the experience of taking the time to do this prayer.

 

Your partner in prayer

Anthony