WE ALL PRAY
with Rev. Rachel
WE ALL PRAY
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 very bad. The "Ah-h-hh!" that sometimes floats up out of us as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the skyrocket bursts over the water. The stammer of pain at somebody else's pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else's joy. Whatever words or sounds we use for sighing with over our own lives. These are all prayers in their way…
According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it. The images he uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all. He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again (Luke 11:5-8)…
Be importunate, Jesus says—not, one assumes, because you have to beat a path to God's door before God will open it, but because until you beat the path maybe there's no way of getting to your door…
Whatever else it may or may not be, prayer is at least talking to yourself, and that's in itself not always a bad idea. Talk to yourself about your own life, about what you've done and what you've failed to do, and about who you are and who you wish you were and who the people you love are and the people you don't love too. Talk to yourself about what matters most to you, because if you don't, you may forget what matters most to you. Even if you don't believe anybody's listening, at least you'll be listening.
Believe Somebody is listening. Believe in miracles. That's what Jesus told the father who asked him to heal his epileptic son. Jesus said, "All things are possible to him who believes." And the father spoke for all of us when he answered, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:14-29).
What about when the boy is not healed? When, listened to or not listened to, the prayer goes unanswered? Who knows? Just keep praying, Jesus says. Remember the sleepy friend, the crooked judge. Even if the boy dies, keep on beating the path to God's door, because the one thing you can be sure of is that, down the path you beat with even your most half-cocked and halting prayer, the God you call upon will finally come, and even if God does not bring you the answer you want, God will bring you God’s self. And maybe at the secret of all our prayers that is what we are really praying for.
Frederick Buechner often says what my heart treasures but struggles to verbalize. You may have already figured that much out; that is, the Buechner part. Sorry not sorry.
Back to prayer: I wonder if you imagine that God could get to you through praying for things that are beyond your immediate circle of care. Might you experiment? If prayer is talking to our self about our life and that is “not always a bad idea” then maybe it’s also talking to our selves about our life together and others’ lives. Dare to see if there too, “Somebody is listening.”