by Rev. Brendan Curran, Assoc. Minister         –          Sept. 15, 2018

“But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  -Isaiah 40:31

“Thoughts and Prayers”…

We hear that expression a lot.  As the church, we’re technically in the business of thoughts and prayers.  We offer thoughts and prayers to the world when it’s in pain but what does that mean? How do we pray for the world?  In Dale’s last blog he wrote about how we are called to be Christ’s presence for our community.  One way we live into that calling is through prayer. How do we respond to the pain in the community around us and in the community of our world through prayer?

Doing that scares us sometimes.  It seems daunting.  We become fatigued from hearing the expression, “thoughts and prayers,” when it becomes a soundbite we utter mechanically in the face of extreme suffering and bleak realities.  We become cynical about the mention of, “thoughts and prayers,” when it’s said in response to human-caused tragedies and backed up with no actions or change.  Many of us might even be wounded by prayer, because sometimes it just feels like our prayers aren’t being heard or answered.

Beloved, “thoughts and prayers,” are more than a soundbite.  They are truly powerful when we hold them together.  I want to suggest two ways of praying that might help move beyond prayer fatigue.

First:

If you are having difficulty praying, “TO” God, try praying “LIKE,” God.

For Christians, praying, “Like God,” means praying the way Jesus prayed.  Consider Jesus’s prayer. In Jesus’s prayer that we recite every Sunday, he illustrates God as a life-generating creative presence dwelling in the power of Love. With his words, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven,” he invokes Heaven on Earth.  Prayer, for Jesus, is a conjuring.  When Jesus prayed, he placed his heart into the Life of Love, and from that standpoint, approached the world.  The way Jesus prays is courageous.  His way of praying is a direct confrontation of all the world’s crosses with the calling down of God’s justice, peace, and possibilities for all creation.  Jesus’s prayer doesn’t turn away from suffering.  He looked at sickness and called healing into being.  He witnessed war and hunger and called forth full bellies and togetherness.  Not turning away from injustice, he named oppression and evil and called forth liberation.  He witnessed the prisons and called forth freedom.  This is something we can do.  We are called to pray like that too, for our world.  By praying like that, Jesus teaches us to be conjurers of the realm of God on Earth.  By praying like that, Jesus teaches us how to let our hearts include the world.  The poet Stanley Kunitz wrote, “In a murderous time the heart breaks and breaks and it lives by breaking.”  Though conjuring the realm of God and praying like Jesus might involve heartbreak at times, we discover God at work in our hearts when we do.

Frederick Douglas

Second:

We can pray with our legs! (Or for that matter our hands, our wheels, our voices, etc.) Frederick Douglas wrote, “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”  When hunger and loneliness insult our heart’s longing for grace we can feed people and hold their hands.  When ignorance and waste disgust us, we can paint a more beautiful picture.  We can allow our hope-filled actions to be our conjuring prayers and invocations! We can plant seeds on the aching Earth!  We can protest!  We can sing!  We can pray through so many acts of creation….  Hallelujah, we can pray with our legs!

The world so desperately needs communities that pray like this.  The world so desperately needs these kinds of thoughts and prayers!  Let’s try it!  Let’s conjure the realm of God and pray with our legs and see what happens.  One thing is certain.  It will involve no prayer fatigue because God is certain to show up when we do.

Thoughts and prayers,

Brendan