The Scripture readings for the week are:
- Matthew 6:5-15; 7:7-11
- Romans 8:26-27
- James 5:13-16
In fact in his 1st letter to the church in Thessalonica Paul writes Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
But in the current world where productivity is pretty much an idol, where we think we have to be accomplishing something however we choose to spend our time the question arises "what does prayer accomplish?". Which I think is another way of asking "is prayer a waste of time?".
The question becomes more pressing when we want God to make a specific change in the world (eg, heal someone's cancer, end a drought, bring peace...) and that change does not happen. What good is prayer if we don't get what we want?
But is that what prayer is about? Is it the "Santa list"? I say no. Prayer is about deepening our relationship with God. And that changes how we live our lives. Last year the Observer had an article about how one minister found that prayer changed the congregation she serves, how it turned them around and brought new life. (As it happens a search of the Observer Website using the keyword 'prayer' shows that they have published several pieces on the topic). I have heard it said that prayer is not intended to change God, it is intended to change us. While it is very traditional that prayer includes words of petition and intercession (asking for things) it has never been intended as a way of controlling God or the world.
Prayer can be formal and structured. It can use words written by others. Prayer can be wordy. OR prayer can be informal and rambling, speaking out of the heart. Prayer can be silent (I would suggest prayer must include some silent to listen to the Divine whisper to the soul). Prayer can be calm, contemplative and meditative. Prayer can be active and loud. Prayer can be kneeling by the bedside, or in a chapel, or walking along the Bear Creek trails, or driving down the highway. It can be praising, or thankful, or remorseful, or angry, or sorrowful. I have found that there are few hard and fast rules for prayer.
Scripture exhorts us to pray. We are told that Jesus regularly takes time to go off by himself and pray. At first glance it may seem like unproductive time, but I have found that it sets us up for more productivity in the long run. ANd I remember a story, one that may be heard on Sunday, which suggests that when life gets too busy for prayer that is when one needs to pray longer. I do think prayer makes a difference. I know it has for me in the past.
Maybe I should do more of it? WHat about you?