How is your Spirit? Prayer as more than prayer.

Herbert Butterfield, an Oxford historian of modern history, has stated that “prayer is the most significant factor in the shaping of history-more significant than war and diplomacy, more significant than technology and art.” (Under the Unpredictable Plant, Eugene Peterson, p. 98)  When we think of the power of pray we often think of intercessory prayer as one of prayer’s powerful engines, and it is!

But as I was trying to say during Sunday’s “Prayer Warrior’s” time, prayer is more than what we usually think of: intercession, adoration, confession, supplication.  Prayer is the heart and core of our relationship with God.  It is communion with God.  It is relationship with our Triune God.  In prayer that we share our most intimate selves with God and, in turn, God shares himself with us.  “Be still and know that I am God” the Psalmist said, and in all our relationships we need to learn to be still and listen.  Always talking means we have a monolog with ourselves.

It is in prayer that we have a “sense,” a feeling, or a “deep knowing” of God’s presence with us.  It is in prayer that we are to learn how to listen with our heart and our mind as God seeks to share with us his heart and his directions.

Amalie is my son Andrew’s cat who lives with me.  She (all cats are “she’s” to me) loves to sit on my lap, sometimes to my displeasure.  But maybe one of the greatest privileges that God gives to us is God’s willingness, and even God’s desire, for us to “sit in his lap” in prayer, just to be with him in silence, doing nothing but being present with God.  What a privilege.

Today is a special day in my life and my family’s as today is the anniversary of Diane’s passing through the door we call death.  I have been thinking and remembering the times that the two of us curled up on the sofa together, not saying a word, just being together.  That is also the way we are to be with God at times.  In such times we are privileged to experience the intimacy of relationship with our grace-filled God.

A Counter-Cultural Call

St. Paul, MN, Baton Rouge, LA, Dallas, TX

these places and events are now enblazoned on our memories.  Violence and more violence, violence that cannot give birth to twins called Violence and Love, but only to identical twins called Violence and Hatred.  Where will it all end?  Those of us in the faith community pray and pray, while others in the faith community pray and march on the streets.

Words and more words.  Some are spoken calmly, but passionately.  Others are shouted, yelled, sworn.  Some are words of wisdom, some are words that stir more discontent and hatred and violence.  I have heard the words of many over the past days and weeks and months and much, much longer.  Many people are wanting to know the reasons for such senseless violence and others are questioning the solutions, but no one, as far as I have heard on the national media, are identifying what seems obvious to me: we need a spiritual revival, a spiritual awakening in our land.

Is the reason that no such call is being issued is because “spiritual revival” is associated with “the church,” which often has been the source of great conflict and division, not unity and love?  Is it because “the church” has not demonstrated power to change lives, to change anything?  Is it because very few people look to “the church” to show them God and to show them the ways of God?  Oh, I too have many, many questions.

But the God that I have gotten to know sent his Son who did not follow the way of violence, who spoke of and demonstrated love for those who hated him, who was strong of character and resolve, who spent his time with the poor and the marginalized and called those in power to accountability.

A spiritual revival or awakening does not begin by marching on the streets, and it definitely does not begin by shouting and name-calling and violence.  It begins with God and by God and toward God.  Such a revival draws us away from “life as usual” and “life under our control.”  The Spirit of God draws us to the Holy One, to God and then to our neighbor, our neighbor of every color and of every race and of every religion and of every sexual orientation.  The Spirit of Jesus fills us with his love for all and love cannot tolerate violence.

How’s your Spirit: Today and Around the Bend?

One of my favorite words for Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.  One of the verses in the New Testament that is becoming more and more important to me is “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation.”  (II Corinthians 6:2c, italic mine)   God is ever present in the here and now.

I have been a person who has always wanted to see what is around the corner, over the hill.   I have always had a “wonder lust,” a “restlessness,” a longing for the next adventure in my life.  So as I get older, wiser???, the fact that God is present in this moment and God’s salvation is now, present-tense reality, has become very important, but a couple of simple verses have taken me up short, have made me look at the now in a new light.

Mark 16: 6,7 read, “But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.  Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.'”   He (Jesus) is going ahead of me as I enter a counseling appointment, as I make a phone call, as I go shopping, as I spend time with family, as I go kayaking.   He goes ahead of me and my task is to pay attention to what Jesus through his Spirit is doing or saying.  He is preparing the way, leading the way, being present.  So my job is not to try to figure out in advance what I might say or what I might do, but rather to pay attention, to watch and listen for what God is already doing.

This has nothing to do with restlessness, this has to do with sensitivity of what God is doing in people’s lives.  God is already at work in lives and in situations long before I arrive.  My task then is to participate with him in his work already started.