June 13, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Ephesians 3:14-21
These days, we are all quite familiar with the concept of communicating wirelessly and I assume, for the most part, we do that without understanding much about how it works – but, we expect it to work!
MODERN WIRELESS COMMUNICATION
I was almost 1000 miles from here last week. I wanted to send a document home to a few of you: About 2000 black characters, 500 empty spaces, arranged in a precise way on 2 pages including one picture. I wanted it to go to 4 particular people and arrive exactly as I arranged it in Florida. It didn’t and I was frustrated and annoyed because usually it does! It’s all technology which means: I don’t get it! So when it comes to making it work, most of the time, I can do that. But when It comes to knowing WHY or HOW it works, I can’t.
Does it seem such a mystery that prayer would baffle us sometimes? We are trying to communicate with God whom we’ve never seen, touched or heard. Who has always been described as “mystery” and in a very real sense, is a being or spirit absolutely beyond our concrete experience.
And yet, humans have been praying in one fashion or another since the first humans! There is in us this longing to engage in some meaningful way with this One who had a hand in our creation and who, I can’t help but believe, wants to engage us too!
Since we see ourselves as God’s Beloved Community, I have felt that we need to explore prayer together and explore some of the ways of prayer. After all, our model, Jesus, prayed. We even have a record of the words he used when he tried to communicate with the one he called “Father.”
So, this morning I invited two of our congregation who, it seemed to me, have had some experience with prayer just to talk about it a bit. Nancy Smith, along with Betty Schaffner, are taking responsibility for our Prayer Team here at St. Johns in which they keep our prayer list up to date. Also, Nancy has been a nurse all of her life and in that role, deals with people in difficult health situations. Allison is leading our monthly Contemplative Prayer group and has brought to us the experience of silent waiting (and listening) for God.
(INVITE NANCY SMITH AND ALLISON DEHART TO THE FRONT) – We engaged in some conversation around the following questions:
INTERVIEW WITH NANCY AND ALLISON
- In what way does prayer fit into your life?
- Nancy, we have had quite a few people on our prayer list lately. Do you see a way in which prayer for these people is in some way connected to our efforts to strengthen the Beloved Community?
- Nancy, with you having been so involved all of your life with people in crisis, how do you cope with that emotionally / spiritually? How does prayer fit into that?
- Nancy, how do you think being on the prayer list helps people?
- Allison, you’re teaching us how to do Contemplative Prayer. How does that fit into your day-to-day life?
- A knotty problem is the times when it seems like your prayer just sits there and God doesn’t seem to pay attention. How do you deal with that?
- I so appreciate you both. It seems like you expand our concepts of prayer a bit and I’m grateful. What do you two see for this congregation? Do you have a sense of direction for us in this area?
Thank you so much for being willing to speak to us all about this topic of prayer which we often see as a very personal and sometimes private issue.
It is my hope as your pastor that we can continue to explore the facets of prayer and of our concept of prayer. If we see God as everywhere and always available, then prayer can be simply the act of consciously being aware of that presence. In that way, everything we do is, in a sense, prayer: our words, our thoughts, our intentions, our emotions, our fears and our hopes. It is like God being the air we breathe.
The people of Islam (indeed the Quran says: “God is nearer to us than our jugular vein.” God is our very life. God is the breath we breathe.
If God, indeed, is that close to our life flow as an individual, I’m wondering if it isn’t true that God is also that intimately involved in this Beloved Community. That is, God is nearer to this Beloved Community than its very jugular vein?
So, in some way, in our own way, to touch that very jugular vein in prayer is to connect us together in a spiritual way that happens in no other way.
For example, as we all silently prayed for Liz and Nevin Fessler’s daughter Susan last Sunday, spiritually we all for a moment were in the same space for the same reason – bonded together in a common prayer over common concern. Where perhaps we might not find common ground otherwise, we find it in the hallowed place of carrying one another in prayer.
I believe it is both the privilege and the responsibility of belonging to one another in Beloved Community.