It Can All Be Prayer
It Can All Be Prayer
[Jesus] was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Luke 11:1-9 NRSV)
In the scripture above Jesus answers the disciples request to be taught how to pray. One way is he teaches words to a specific prayer, but, he also teaches that asking God anything is prayer, as well as that non-verbal acts like persistence, searching and knocking are prayer.
Jesus, of course, is not alone in claiming prayer can be non-verbal. The bible includes many other acts of prayer: singing and dancing, even just being still and quiet are forms of prayer. In Psalm 46’s famous phrase we are told to “Be still, and know that I am God: I am exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” In Psalm 47 we are told to “Clap your hands all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of Joy.” In Psalm 136 we are told to “[G]ive thanks to the Lord, for [God] is good, for [God’s] steadfast love endures for ever.” In Psalm 147 we are told “Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for [God] is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.”
And look at all the different ways Psalm 150 tells us how we can pray:”
Praise the Lord! Praise God in [the] sanctuary; praise [God] in [the] mighty firmament! Praise [God] for [God’s] mighty deeds; praise [God] according to [God’s] surpassing greatness! Praise [God] with trumpet sound; praise [God] with lute and harp! Praise [God] with tambourine and dance; praise [God] with strings and pipe! Praise [God] with clanging cymbals; praise [God] with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
Prayer, then, is not just talking to God. It’s a communication or expression of thoughts or feelings with God.
The author of the book of James succinctly states what happens when we pray: “Draw near to God and [God] will draw near to you (4:8).” Draw near to God, and God will be drawn near to you.
Remarkably we are the ones with the power to get closer to God. We control how close we get to God! If we draw ourselves near to God, the very source of the universe, of life and love, is near to us. Why is that? How could that be? Well, we live and move and have our being in God. God is ever-present soaking all of creation through-and-through and if we just focus on it God’s there. God’s here.
For example, if we take a moment to focus on God in any location or on any object, God can be found, and not because we make God appear, but because we took the time to sense God’s presence there. If we touch or see or say or feel anything in order to sense God, we will find God’s presence in that thing in that moment! We will be drawn nearer to God and God is, then, near to us.
The power of prayer, whether it is touching, seeing, feeling, talking, singing, dancing, walking, thinking or just sitting in quiet solitude, the power of such prayer, is drawing ourselves to God–who is everywhere, all the time. That God is everywhere all the time not only means that we are swimming and soaked in what is a great ocean of God, but it also means that all of creation is connected by that very God-ness.
No human quite knows how, but, somehow when we focus our prayers on the God-ness in others even miles and miles away we not only draw nearer to God in that prayer, but, we seem to draw God nearer to them as well. It’s like an inter-galactic knock on door of the cosmos to get the presence of God some attention, we must knock, knock, knock persistently, not to get God’s attention, but to get us humans up and pay attention to God.
To use another biblical metaphor, Paul refers to the Body of Christ as being a made up by the conglomeration of all of us. I like that image. When parts of a body are wounded, the wound knocks with pain until it has the other cells and body parts’ attention. The cells communicate and rally round to tend to the wound and the result can be healing.
Conversely when a part of the body experiences pleasure the body is awaken with that good news and as a whole rejoices. This is a good metaphor for how we live and move and have our being IN CHRIST! Being in Christ’s body necessarily means that Christ is always, always with us–because we are in Christ. Our prayers are signals to the rest of the body of our needs and joys. More importantly they remind us that we are not only a part of the Body of Christ, but also make us aware that Christ, the very God of love, is what we live and move and exist in. And we are electrified by consciously making that connection, we are awaken to God’s presence with us.
Prayer is turning to sense God wherever we are. To bring our focus and other’s focus on that Sacred presence. Henri Nouwen, often called one of the great spiritual writers of our time, puts it like this:
Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you freedom to go and to stay where you wish and to find the many signs which point out the way to a new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily life schedule of a Christian or a source of support in the time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or meal times. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, action and rest, teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive. 1
Prayer does not have to be difficult or time consuming. It’s about focusing on God in a time and place or even a thing. The more we pray the better. The more things we do as prayer the better. But even the smallest shortest prayer matters.
Prayer is swapping thoughts or feelings with God. We can pray by talking, dancing, singing, drawing, playing music, thinking, walking, even by being quiet.
It’s prayer if you do it and mean to listen to God or have God listen to you. And the cool thing is the more you pray, the more you knock, knock, knock, the more the Empire of God enters the world, all of our world.
Do something, anything, with God in mind and know that it’s prayer. Amen.
1.Nouwen, Henri, The Only Necessary Thing, Crossroads Publishing Co., (1999), p. 40
Copyright 2012 all rights reserved by Rev Scott Elliott