Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Size of Prayer

If you haven't seen it, take a look at Daisy Jane Buck's question for our bishop at a recent diocesan youth event.  Doug Adkins passed it along to me and I have posted the short video on our Facebook page.  She asked Bishop Wright about prayer!

Thanks to Doug for having his phone ready to capture this important moment.  Sorry if the sound quality makes hearing Daisy Jane or Bishop Wright difficult. 

Her question was this, "When you pray, do you think it could be about something you're asking or for someone or can you just be having a conversation [with God]?"  Bishop Wright was thrilled to hear such a question and he said "My heart is singing!"

We should all be thrilled.  Her parents should be proud.  Daisy Jane's question is hugely important. Not only because she asks about a core concern for faithful people -- how to pray -- but because the act of her asking is an example for us all.

First the question itself and I'm paraphrasing: Is prayer asking God for things or more talking to God? You'll have to ask Daisy Jane what the bishop's answer was but I'm hoping he said, "YES!"

We can and should and should want to petition God and to put before God our concerns, our worries, our fears, our anythings-that-would-be-introduced-with-saying-"please!"

Sometimes I've felt like I've left important matters off my list even though I've known God knows before I ask.  Try as I might, I know I'm always going to leave something out of my list of names and things and problems and thank you's.  I still think God appreciates my asking.  

The conversation thing is tougher.  Not because we don't have much to say but more likely because we are afraid of what God might have to say.  So whenever I start -- should I say join? -- a conversation with God it almost always devolves into reciting my list.  

The only way I know how to hear God's answering of my prayers is to try to make my whole life into a kind of prayerfulness that listens more than lists, that waits and trusts and wonders and sometimes "just sits." 

It takes practice.  Our gathering for Night Prayers, which begins again this coming Sunday September 13th is the best chance I know to practice our part in having a prayerful conversation with God.  

For me it takes silence.  Or better a stillness or steadiness provided by the repetition of "Jesus, Son of God, abide with me."  If I don't repeat the phrase over and over my mind starts down some list. Sometimes I just let that happen and when I can let it go I can get back to my mantra.  

Lots more can be gleaned from Daisy Jane's question.  Mostly for me it is an example of how dimensions of scale shape our praying.

Don't you feel like she was brave to stand up in a room full of people she didn't know or had just met that day and ask THE BISHOP a question?  All the "little me versus the big ole world" emotions kick in and I am afraid even though I know the outcome of the moment.

But how else can we pray?  Especially when our prayers are focused on God's forgiving us and our wrongdoings.  Confession will always expose us as smaller than the one who is merciful.  

We shouldn't let that stop us.  We can certainly pray for each other but there are some prayers, some questions for God that we individually must take the responsibility to ask on our own.  

It may feel like standing in a room full of strangers and/or before a bishop but there is no other way for us do it.  Funny what will get us to leave ourselves off the list.

Thank you Daisy Jane for asking the bishop about prayer AND for showing us how to pray. 

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