Cultivating Friendship with God: Prayer on 2nd and 4th Wednesdays this Fall
A few weeks ago I was having coffee with a person I had just recently met. We were talking about our worship services at Tab. She asked me about the parts in the service where we were asked to pray, specifically the opening prayer and prayer of confession. She asked, “What are we doing when we pray?”
What a profound question, I thought.
My new friend had not grown up in a home where faith or prayer was practiced or discussed, so prayer was a new concept to her. But it occurred to me that her thoughtful and curious question is not a question that we stop asking even if we pray on a regular basis. I mean yeah, what are we doing when we pray?
Earlier in the summer, when I asked you to share some of the questions and longings that are on your heart, about one-quarter of the responses that I received had to do with prayer: How can I move from mind to heart in prayer? What does it mean to pray without ceasing? How do I pray for my enemies? How do I cultivate more contemplation in my life? How do I cultivate a relationship with God?
It may surprise you that I share these very same questions! I, too, long to practice prayer at a deeper and more intentional level. I, too, struggle with the intense pressure in our culture to be a person of continual action and production, a person who “does good work” and has results to show for it. And while action is absolutely critical to engaging in God’s justice work in the world, I have a sense that prayer may be just as critical, perhaps even more so, for our engagement in God’s justice work.
Of course, there is no one definition of prayer and I’m not sure the answer would always be the same as to what we are doing when we pray. Saint John Damascene from the seventh century said that prayer is a “raising of one’s mind and heart to God.” Prayer perhaps in its simplest definition is communication with God. I personally like the metaphor of prayer as cultivating friendship with God. Cultivating a healthy friendship with someone requires time, learning, curiosity, honesty, listening, talking, silence, and openness to change. It seems to me that each of these elements of cultivating friendship with God are similar ingredients to what we need in order to engage in meaningful justice work.
Theologian Karl Rahner said "knowing God is more important than knowing about God.” And I agree with him. I think that many of us share a deep longing to be in friendship with our God of love and liberation. We long to drink from the well that does not run dry and to be refreshed by the healing streams of God’s mercy and grace. Because in knowing that we are not alone, that God is our friend and advocate, we are truly able to do remarkable and bold things together.
If you would like to cultivate a more intentional practice of prayer in your life, I want to invite you to join me on the second and fourth Wednesdays this fall at Tab, at 6pm. One those evenings, will gather for 45 minutes to pray. You may have already heard that the Bible study group is moving to a more regular schedule of meeting on the first and third Wednesdays every month. This means there is an opportunity to join every week at Tab for prayer or Bible study (or both). If you are new to prayer, if you have many questions about it and are not sure how to pray or what we are doing when we pray, then please come join us. My hunch is that most of us are asking some pretty basic questions about prayer. And sometimes we just need to practice prayer together for a while and then look back and observe what it does to us before we really learn the true value of it.
I look forward to seeing you in September. And I hope to see you on a Wednesday evening this fall for prayer or Bible study or both.