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Wednesday Wondering - May 1, 2024

Scripture

Psalm 13: 1

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?How long will you hide your face from me?


Matthew 6: 5 - 8

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”


Romans 8: 26

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.


Reflection

I have been thinking, and wondering, a lot lately about this idea of prayer. What does it mean for us to pray? What should we be praying for? Does prayer make a difference? Well I think that there are many people I know who would say that prayer can make all the difference in the world, and I agree with that in so many ways. To lift up someone, or something to God in prayer is powerful and I believe that it not only affects those who are being lifted up in prayer, but it also affects those who are doing the praying.


Now if I am completely honest with all of you, my usual way to offer prayer is to raise my eyes and arms to the sky and simply exclaim “Really!” I can joke about this but the reality is that sometimes that is all that I can do. It gives me great comfort, when I do this, to remember the passage from Romans, that assures me that when I don’t know how to pray the Sprit will intercede with sighs too deep for words. If I am honest again, there are so many times in my life when I don’t have the words to pray, and so I enter into that divine silence and know that God knows what is weighing heavy on my heart. Yet, I also know that there is so much happening in the world right now that needs our prayers.


In seeing the mess that this world seems to be in, with the violence, the anger, the war, the poverty, the homelessness, it makes me wonder where do we even start? It can be overwhelming, given the state of the world, to even know where to begin with our prayers. I would like to offer today a quote from the late Mother Teresa, who said, “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but  now I pray that God will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” It frustrates me at times when violence happens in the world and people default to offering their thoughts and prayers. I am not frustrated by the prayers because, as I said, lifting someone else up in prayer is powerful and can be healing. The frustration comes from the fact that so many will offer prayers, in the face of violence and tragedy, but they will not allow themselves to be changed by those prayers and spurred to action so that they might be agents of change in our world.


I wonder what would happen if all of those people, who offer only their thoughts and prayers, allowed themselves to be changed by their prayer. What might our world look like if our prayers not only lifted up those we pray for, those situations that we pray for, but also changed us so that we might be the ones who changed the world. I believe that prayer not only has the power to heal our lives, and the lives of those we hold in our prayers, but it also have to power to change the world, through us. It might seem like a daunting task, but I believe that when we call out to God, in prayer, we are strengthened in God’s love to continue forward. The challenge I think for us, is that we often wait for God to make a change. The Psalmist, in the scripture I offered today, asks why God has hidden God’s face, why they have been forgotten. I often wonder about this when people say that their prayers were not answered. I quite often wonder if maybe their prayer was answered but in a way that they were not expecting and they didn’t see it. Or I wonder if maybe their prayer was answered in God strengthening them so that they would be the answer to the prayer themselves. To pray, I believe, is to open ourselves up to the mysterious movement of God in our lives. I don’t believe that prayer is a ‘to do’ list for God but rather it is our opening ourselves, lifting up those whom we pray for, those situations we pray for, and then to experience the movement of the Spirit in our lives moving us to where God wants us to be. Prayer is as much about us as it is about God. So we continue to pray and I hope that we continue to grow and change as we do. Amen.


Prayer

God of infinite mercy, we ask that you hear our prayers, those when we have the words, and those when the words aren’t there. We ask for the wisdom to discern where you are calling us in the midst of our prayers, where we can be agents of change in a world that can be so broken. We ask for you guidance, your mercy, and your patience when we don’t recognize your call. As we pray may your Spirit enliven us, and comfort us, as well as all those whom we lift up to you. We ask this in the name of the one who taught us to pray, your son, Jesus. Amen.

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