Isaiah 65:24 – Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
Let's be blunt and honest to God before we begin talking about prayer. We have real trouble in this present age with prayer. I'm not certain if the problem stems from our belief or lack of belief in prayer or from our lack of time away from 'the real world' to engage in prayer. We may just not be convinced that prayer is all that important, even to our Christian lives. Yet if that is true, I cannot connect that with the overwhelming requests I get to pray for people who, many times, have no other connection to the church or things of the spirit. The requests sometimes almost overwhelm me. People want to know that we are praying for them, whether they pray or believe in prayer or give prayer a second thought.
Let me tell you a story which is a little long but powerful in the purposes of prayer, a story told by W. Paul Jones who taught at one time in seminary. He writes:
- Most of us learn better through participation than by hearing someone talk about something. I should have known better, then, than to begin my seminary teaching by offering a lecture course on prayer. After disappointing results, I began my class the next year by taking the students to the Benedictine Abbey of Perpetual Adoration — a community dedicated to praying without ceasing. After participating in Morning Prayer with the nuns, we met for dialogue. Student questions came quickly — even bluntly.
"What do you do?"
"Sure, but what do you really do?"
"But then what?"
The questioning got nowhere. Finally the real question was blurted out:
"Surely you do something useful!"
The Abbess's response was equally direct:
"Don't you believe in prayer?"
The long silence that followed was embarrassing. It was broken only when an aged nun discerned the underlying issue:
"As nuns in our Order, we do little else but pray. That makes no sense if the church is about nothing else except prayer. But the church is an organism, dependent on each. And so you who are preparing for active ministry are crucial, but so are we who sustain you and all creation with our prayers. You give meaning to our praying; we give strength to your doing. Now, tell us your names so that the faces of our prayers for you will not be nameless."
Isn't it a marvellous relief to know there is a place of Perpetual Adoration which holds you and all creation up before the love of our God, even if they do not know you by name? They offer you up in prayer before the One who knows every hair on your head, and your name that is written in the book of life.
Prayer: Often Lord we do not take the time to talk to you and express the deepest desires of our hearts. Help us be quiet in the midst of the busyness of today and take it to you, Our Lord, in prayer. Amen.