The National Day of Prayer is forthcoming. I know this because there was an announcement in the bulletin on Sunday. I glanced at it, briefly thought of my failures in this area in the past, then the service started and I put it in the back of my mind.
A short time later I was forced to think about prayer again. This time in the context of what, to me, seemed an urgent, let’s get down on our knees this second and pray, situation. I must have been the only one who saw it that way, however, because it wasn’t done.
Now, let me explain a bit about myself before I get into this further. I have changed. I have changed a whole lot. But there are things that are pretty much the same. I’m still an introvert. That hasn’t changed at all. I don’t foresee it ever changing; however, after the situation I was in on Sunday, I do realize I am probably still using it as an excuse. Second, I really don’t want to make waves. There are times when I post a blog entry and wonder if I’m doing the right thing, and, more importantly, if I’m doing this for the right reasons.
Suffice to say, though I felt the heavy need to get my butt out of my seat and go over and lay hands on the person in need of prayer and pray immediately, I sat in my chair and prayed in my head, around the distractions of the room. Now, maybe that really was all I could do at the time. I don’t know. But something about it sits wrongly inside me now, as well as then.
I am uneasy with my reaction because it seems to me a glaring sin of omission. I say I believe in prayer, I pray, I ask for prayer. But what does that word mean to me? What definition is in my head when I think it?
I talk to my kids and others often about the definition of love, simply because my ex throws that word around like he means something by it. But there is nothing in his definition. It is an empty word because his actions (or inaction, as the case may be) speak far more loudly.
But what about my definition of prayer? What do I really mean when I tell someone I’ll pray for them? And, when there is an obvious urgent need, is it OK to go about with business as usual until we can get around to it?
I could use the excuse that I am not the leader of the situation I was in. But that’s lame. And, I have a feeling, would only compound my guilt. It doesn’t matter.
Another thing you should know about me is that I observe people. I know it doesn’t seem like that because I can’t recall what you were wearing or, honestly, the color of your hair or eyes. I’m an observer of behavior. And one thing I’ve observed is that we, in the church, really don’t understand prayer at all. Not that I have a complete handle on it, but it seems to me, from reading God’s word, and observing things around me, that prayer is far bigger than any of us, particularly conservatives, want to admit.
It reminds me of that last scene in the first (and only good) Indiana Jones movie. They’ve delivered the Ark of the Covenant to the American government and Indy tells Marion that the government are “Bureaucratic fools…They don’t know what they’ve got there.” Then the scene flashes to the Ark being fork-lifted into storage in a cavernous warehouse.
I feel like that’s been my view of prayer. I don’t know where it came from. I know it’s changing, but it’s moments like what happened to me on Sunday that really force me to examine what I believe about this, one of our greatest tools of the Faith.
If we serve the God we claim to serve and believe that what He says is true, then why do we ignore this command? I have heard people say often that they haven’t been given the gift of prayer. Is it only a spiritual gift for some? Does not God hear all of our prayers, even the prayers of those weak in Faith? How can it be only for a few?
If we believe God’s Word to be True, why do we barely bother with prayer? Why is it that prayer is some sort of after-thought? I am in another situation right now where prayer is being used as a last ditch effort by people. Shouldn’t that have been the first course of action? Why do we believe that there are things we should try to do before we pray?
In Sunday’s sermon the pastor pointed out that we refuse to trust God for the impossible as a way of protecting ourselves from disappointment. If we refuse to trust God for the impossible, I guess that explains why we use prayer as an after-thought, and why we don’t just drop everything and pray as soon as we see a need.
And all of this left me with the terrifying thought, that if we don’t trust God with the “impossible,” how is it we claim we trust Him for our Salvation? How is it we claim we trust His Word? Our Salvation is impossible. His Word is filled with impossible things, including the most impossible thing of all, the Resurrection of Christ.