I have been waking up an hour early to go to my awesome church, where they have all installed this giant dry erase board. I have been sitting there, for an hour, almost all every day, with dear friends, great people. We have been praying for all the requests on that board, and for each other. There is music, sometimes, and there is only a few of us, sometimes, and there is a dozen, or more, of us, other times. We have pray out loud, we pray silently, we cry, and we laugh, and yes, sometimes we are bored.
But not nearly as often as I would have thought.
There are so many things about prayer that don’t make any sense. It is a thing I have struggled with a lot, an area I have grown in, I think, since coming to the place I worship in. But it’s not that anybody has really explained things to me in a new way. I still don’t get why God just does things with out prayer some times. And why he does things only after we pray for them other times. And why he doesn’t seem to budge toward our prayer other times.
I have a few guesses and metaphors around these things. But they aren’t the part that really bugs me. The part that really bugs me is the idea that the world might operate like some sort of Prom-king election, where the cool kids, with lots of people praying/voting, that makes me sick.
And yet I wake up when it is still dark, stumble out of bed and to church before heading off into my job and life. I am comitted to doing this until Easter, at least. And the crazy thing is that it does not feel like a chore. It does not feel like work. Please believe this is me confessing, and not bragging. I am not very disciplined or good at time management. (In truth, I ought to confess that I am a morning person; perhaps that part is easier for me than it would be for you.)
It is not that it is fun. And it is not that is easy, either. Sometimes, the weight of those desires ways me down: people suffering from cancer, and depression, and lonliness. Requests for comfort, support, material things and spiritual realities. Prayers for the writer, prayers for the people they love, prayers for the church.
People talk about how Jesus took on the sins of the whole world. I think there is something to that. While I don’t think that is the whole picture, I do think that in praying for this tiny little sliver of the things that a tiny little population dared to write… this gives me just the tiniest glimpse of some of the things it meant, for Jesus to take all this on.
Somehow, while this brings me out of myself, it also brings me back, to the deepest part of me. God meets us when we pray, and I have this sense that he emerges from within us as much as he does outside of us. And as I suffer with people, feeling their pain, it connects to my own.
I suspect, even if I wasn’t praying for others, if I was just sitting, awake but inactive, I would have this sense of something deep within me… stirring. I am waking up to the reality that so much of what we do is running away from our baggage, our hurts, and our pain.
Our crazy-busy schedules, our constant multi-tasking, our incessant longing for entertainments… I am always running. Maybe you are too. I remember when I was little, we used to have these water fights. They would begin with water balloons but inevitably devolve to using the hose to go after each other.
My older, larger brother is better at being a male than I am. On those rare occasions when I would briefly gain control of the hose, he would manage to puff himself up, and loudly charge at me, and inevitably I would run away.
I remember when I figured out that when I held the hose, I had the power. I did not have to run away. It was an act of will, maybe the bravest thing I ever had to do, standing my ground. But it paid off.
My fears and brokeness, they are like my brother was, then. In the act of standing where I am, choosing not to run through business, or noisiness, or activity, in the act of allowing myself quiet and stillness, I make my stand.
Despite my reservations, hesitations, and objections: it works. After all, it does not make sense to me that the wind holds up an airplane, either. And yet… it works.