Thursday, March 10, 2011

Let us pray…

Here’s a collection of quotes from favorite prayers of mine.  I’d be interested to receive yours:
  • “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end…and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.”  -Thomas Merton
  • “Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise…You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  -St. Augustine
  • “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.”  -Jesus of Nazareth
  • “My Soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” -Mary, Jesus’ Mom
  • “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub.” -David, my fifth-grade friend

I could go on and on!  You ever noticed how, when watching a movie or sports game, something happens on screen and you know, you just know, what they’ll say next?  Two attractive people look longingly into each other’s eyes during a romantic comedy, and after a few moments of tension, inevitably, one utters, “I love you,” words jumbled with emotion.  Or a running back breaks through the offensive line, runs into the open field with no one around to tackle him, so the TV announcer yells, “He could...go…all…the…way!”  That doesn’t have to happen, of course.  The screenwriter or football commentator could choose different responses to those situations.  But those particular words have worked so well for so long for so many people they feel ingrained in our collective consciousness, a natural part of our feelings about specific circumstances.  Words can even structure expectations about the future- how to judge if a new movie is original or formulaic, whether a football game is sufficiently exciting- that we repeat some phrases in our daily lives, hoping to receive ourselves what we saw on TV.

For all my appreciation of inventiveness in prayer, I think that’s how good prayers can make a great difference in our lives.  The words I quoted above (most of them…!) are favorites not just because I find them pretty, but because I’ve repeated these prayers many times, allowing them to shape my spirit in what I consider more holy and faithful directions.  Or that’s been the goal.  I want my anxiety to find its holding pattern in the lovingly restful arms of God.  I hope always to retain a fervent desire to please God, and to work for God’s Kingdom in our midst, while nevertheless being humble and content with my confusions, doubts and limitations.  I want never, ever, to forget how incredible God truly is, that God is always different, always better and more magnificent.  Mary was absolutely right!

But that’s not the only way prayer operates in our lives, right?  A couple weeks back, I wrote about primary and secondary blessings of prayer, but couldn’t explore issues like intercessory prayer (“God, heal my mother”), contemplative prayer (e.g. repeating simple phrases for twenty minutes), prayers of lament (“My God, why have you forsaken me?!”), interfaith prayer (ever prayed with Muslims?) and more.  In fact, there’s much confusion, even disagreement, about prayer’s impact on Christians- when to do it, whether to move, what’s selfish, effective, faithful or foolish.  So next Wednesday, March 16, as the first in a series of Lenten conversations about difficult issues of faith, I want to discuss prayer.  We’ll begin at 6 in the sanctuary, I’ll have dinner waiting, and until 6:50ish, we’ll be honest with each about prayer.  I’ll bring resources from some wise souls that may be helpful.  Bring your experiences, questions, convictions, doubts and willingness to learn and listen.  And together, we may understand better what may be the most ancient, mysterious, profound and fundamental religious practice of all time- Prayer.  How’s that for a dramatic advertisement…?!

Grace and Peace,
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