Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Through Stained Glass: Mid-Week Reflection-Heart Prayer in June's August

You read that correctly.

That says 92-degrees. (Though my truck thermostat said 94!) And yes, it does feel like 97 out!

And you are also correct in that it is, in fact, June and not already August.

I guess we should be thankful that it isn’t so humid out… yet.

Funny isn’t it? How when it’s cold, we want it to be hot, and when it’s hot, we wish it to be cooler.

Some have suggested this is how they sometimes feel with their prayer habits: when life is going well, it is easy not to pause and pray, and when life gets hard, the first thing we do is pray.

Think of that last one. Maybe a part of your prayer is to blame or to question God about the difficulties we experience. That’s called lament. It’s also honest to admit that because of the hardships, we may sometimes choose not to pray.

Whatever our motivations (or lack thereof), God welcomes prayer: whether it’s those we have written in our journals or those we offer up quickly before we pull off a Band-Aid, God finds us.  

This is why—in spite of God’s availability and hospitality—we must make time to pray. It is easy to get lost in life’s busyness and the occasional storm that accompanies this journey. Prayer brings us back to the depths of our being, and perhaps by invoking the name of Jesus in wonder and love, prayer returns us to the place of our true (first) existence: God.

To rest in the presence of God has often been called ‘prayer of the heart’ or contemplative prayer. Prayer of the heart may use few words or none, but it requires faith and a willing, attentive heart. Sometimes we don’t pray because we may not know how to, or we wonder which practice is the right one. Our worry makes us miss the purpose of prayer. After all, prayer isn’t about doing something right so that we might change God; rather, we pray so that we may become of aware of God’s presence in our lives.

Prayer is meant to reorient our lives toward God, and it reminds us of our need for ongoing conversion, mercy, and love—all of which God freely gives. The quality of each person’s life grows from the prayer of the heart as a whole, and prayer immeasurably nourishes one’s life in return.

To pray when only we find it convenient robs us of God’s goodness in every moment of every day amidst every season. When we begin to make time to pray—to ponder what is before us now with trust, joy, and loving attention—that’s when we become aware of the divine in all aspects of life.

My understanding of prayer has evolved over the years. What used to be a transactional practice as a child—“God if you heal my cut, I promise to never walk barefoot in the alley again”—has become one of holy listening. And being.

The best example of a prayer of the heart I can offer you from my life is one I experienced on this 94-degree day:

I was shopping in a store who had their air conditioner cranked up so high—I swear—I saw snowflakes. The longer I wandered the aisles, the colder I became… to the point that I started getting goose bumps. Though my heart rate was up a bit after the jaunt from the store to my truck, I was still shivering when got to the door. As I opened it, it was like I had stuck my head in my mom’s oven after she cooked lasagna; a wave of heat smacked me in the face. Getting in and settled in the seat, I grabbed the steering wheel almost hot to the touch, and a strange thing happened….

Suddenly, a profound sense of peace overcame me.

I imagine that’s what it’s like when babies wake in the middle of the night, scared from loneliness or want, then are held and swaddled in their parent’s arms, pressed against a beating heart and comforted by a rhythm they’ve felt since the beginning.

As I thawed, I became overwhelmingly aware of my need for God’s mercy in my life. In that very moment, God cradled me in the warmth of Her gentleness, returning me to my core—to Love. On this August-like day in June, I remembered the real purpose of prayer is the deepening of personal realization in love—the awareness of God.

Friends, may you be warmed by the light of God. And may you come to embrace that you have already been found in Christ. And may you trust that even now, with your words or despite the absence of them, the Spirit is shaping you into the beloved child of God you are.