The prayer of action

The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Pastor

If you don’t care to read the article above, it says the most important thing you can do for your pastor is to pray for him (or her). While this sounds spiritual (at least in the tradition I grew up in), it’s nonsense.  Why do people pray? People usually pray because they need to have something done. But why pray for God to do something we are perfectly capable of doing on our own? Partnering with God means doing what we can, and then praying that God will take our small efforts and bring about far more than our effort could have yielded on its own.

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What does the world really need?

I heard a good, well-meaning person recently say that prayer is the only thing keeping things in the world from being worse than they are. I disagree with this. Whether or not such people are praying or not, God works through human beings, and it is only as each human being works from a place of peace and gentleness (aka, “God”), combined with education about the complex realities around us, that we can be the channels of God’s healing that are needed in the world.

Shouting, blaming, continual conflict and confrontation, put-downs, hostility, fear-mongering — these methods used as techniques in our political process, in large part, ARE the problem. They come out of human fear, out of anxiety, out of a sense that if the world isn’t as I want it to be, I can’t be okay.

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Desperately Seeking My Soul

I often find myself barreling through life, moving at light speed from one suffocating activity to the next. I experience my life as chaotic, random, and exhausting, yet I do not stop. t’s not that I particularly enjoy most of what I’m doing. It’s just that I’m doing something, and there’s always more to do – one more phone call, one more email, one more thorough cleanse of my Inbox, one more computer problem to fix. After a while I begin feeling like I am choking — that I have stepped on my own oxygen hose. I can almost feel my soul shriveling up inside of me, and yet often I barrel on. Nothing relieves that sense of suffocation and restores my soul, except for quietness and solitude and prayer. That’s it.

I notice that as I get older, I am getting less and less capable of doing without these times of quietness and prayer. I wondered about that for a while, if perhaps it was simply a sign of encroaching age, and sensitivity to busyness and activity. That’s not it. I realized that actually something very different is going on. As I have invested more and more into prayer, I am becoming more averse to the old air I used to breathe (the air of relentless activity, accomplishment, and busyness) and more dependent on the new and fresher air of Spirit (peace, rest, silence, balance, joy, love). The simple way of saying it is that I am finding that the more I pray, the more I need to pray.

This of course makes sense. Before I started working out, I rarely if ever sensed a need to do it. When I first began working out, it felt awkward and uncomfortable. I felt averse to it. But the more I did it, the better I started feeling and the less I was able to tolerate feeling the way I had felt previously. Psychologically, investment in anything creates a dynamic where the brain begins to find reasons for that investment. This happens whether the investment is terrible (like an abusive relationship, where one manufactures reasons to stay) or wonderful (like a decision to get in shape).  Of course we didn’t really need psychology to tell us that. A wise man named Jesus once said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

When you invest yourself into something (build treasure there), your heart and mind will attach to it, and you will find it becoming more and more important.  As I have sought to restore my soul in prayer, I have found prayer becoming more of a necessity in my life, which in turn regularly restores my soul.

The Prayer of Faith

sad man i cannot pray

photo via 123rf.com

God, I want to pray but I can’t. Sometimes you are our only hope, and it seems like you’re really not much. You let that little girl in California get murdered the other day. Right now, in every corner of the earth, someone is grieving over a child who is about to die, crying out to you for deliverance — knowing you are their only hope — and maybe afraid that that’s not much.

I know, death isn’t the end of THE story. But it’s an important part of OUR story, God.

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Prayer of Tecumseh. And me.

prayer of tecumseh

This prayer published below is one of the most strikingly beautiful, and true, things I have ever read. It completely sums up the goal of my life. I do not claim to have arrived, but from what I’ve heard, Tecumseh arrived, and we know that others have arrived. Can a single one of us, of any religion — or no religion at all — deny that this piece contains all that is highest and best about both living and dying?

Prayer of Tecumseh Native American/ Shawnee Chief

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, Perfect your life, Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the Great Divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a Friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the Joy of Living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the Spirit of its Vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death Song and die like a Hero going Home.

All I can say to this is Amen — which literally means “So be it,” or “Let it be so.”