Tumbling in the Sand
2 Chronicles 7.14: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
1 Thessalonians 5.12a, 16-22: But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters … Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
Beloved of God,
Did you know that? That you are beloved of God? Yup, God loves you. And being that God loves you, God wants to hear from you and speak to you. You know, communication; it’s kind of central to most loving relationships … Which is why over and over again in the Bible we are admonished, told, pleaded with, to pray. It’s not like it is some sort of chore or good deed that we are supposed to do, something we go through the motions with. Nor is it something that can be standardized as though one prayer all the time will work for every single person.
Sometimes we think that we have to do prayer a particular way, as though it were some sort of magical thing that if we just did it right, God would listen to us and we’d get what we want. Sometimes we think that it is wrong to say certain things to God or we think that certain feelings or wants are not holy enough to pray about. This, however, would not be the case. There is nothing on our hearts or in our minds that God does not want to hear about. There is nothing too unholy or dangerous for God. If you don’t believe me, read the psalms.
We have many models for prayer in the Bible, including the Lord’s Prayer, the entire book of Psalms, Mary’s song, among many others. What these
prayers do for us is to give us a way to pray when we don’t have words ourselves, and they give us permission and form to pray what is really on our hearts—even when it might seem less than, well, whatever we think is proper. Even pure destructive hatred finds expression in prayer, just look at Psalm 137, where the psalmist expresses: “O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!” Love, lust, wants, dreams, wishes, praise, and sorrow find voice in the psalms as well, and so therefore, clearly are appropriate to pray about.
The point of prayer is not so much about getting things you want or having things work out the way that you wish they would; the point of prayer is that relationship with God. Just like having a conversation with a loved one is not primarily about getting what you want, but it is about getting closer to that person. Therefore, like in conversation, when we pray, we share with God what is truly of concern to us and listening, in turn, to what is of concern to God. Of course, in that conversation, we might well find ourselves changed as we let go of things, as we humble ourselves enough to trust God with our lives, as we seek to listen to God and therefore, for a moment, pause, as we find ourselves acting on what God most wants for God’s people. Yes, prayer might just change us and, in changing us, it might just change the world.
Lately, we have been thinking a lot about our future as two communities in Naugatuck and the conversations have been excellent and enlightening. One thing that these conversations have lead me to is more prayer and I have found myself wanting to invite you all more into that prayer. Therefore, Thursdays, at Immanuel, I will be praying. I invite you to join me, either by physically coming to the space to pray morning prayer with me, or to pray where you are during that time (which will last for about 40 minutes). By praying where you are, you will be joining with a whole community listening to God at the same time, and that can be a really powerful thing. In doing this, perhaps, our relationship with God and each other will grow richer; and who knows, God might just lead us into something new and unexpected through our prayer.