Monday, February 11, 2019
Meeting Matthew Again...Anew
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from God in heaven. Matthew 6:1
What images come to mind when you hear the word, "Pray"?
Maybe you think of folding your hands and bowing your head.
Maybe you hear words stacked upon words...often in a monotone voice that lulls you into a sleep-like state.
Maybe you've had a bad experience with prayer that left a lingering awful taste in your mouth. A moment someone told you to pray for miracle, and when that didn't happen, the person says, "Well, guess you didn't try hard enough." Because that helps.
Maybe you think of televangelists on t.v.
Maybe you think of prayer as formulaic...first you pray for others, then yourself.
Sometimes I think the life of prayer gets stuck in Sunday School.
Sometimes I think the life of prayer has so much written about it and so few experiences.
Sometimes I think the church has struggled to really help people in this journey.
What if rather than words, prayer was more playful...artful...and harder to describe or define?
What if prayer was first and foremost about cultivating a relationship with the sacred?
Prayer is not something you have to do, should do, must do. It is not about appeasing God, as if God is waiting around saying, "I sure wish Wes would toss, throw words my direction." I don't think God grades our prayers either.
I do agree with C.S. Lewis who wrote that initially he believed prayer was to change God...only to eventually come to understand that prayer was to change him. It wasn't about trying to convince God to do something, but about space where our thoughts could be openly and honestly shared.
Which is where Jesus is coming from in the short passage above. Not about the words we pour out poetically in public, but the state of our heart and soul. Or as my spiritual director always asks me, "How is it with your soul?"
To check in with how the deep within us is connecting to the deep within God. That requires something more than five minutes or scanning an email devotional in the morning or even reading this post. To slow down long enough to listen...deeply, honestly, with whole-hearted openness. That is not the kind of listening we do most days. We skim the surfaces, scan the homepage, and move quickly to the next task, because we already feel behind. We rush, run, race...always out of breath... always saying to our soul, "Just keep up will you...and try to make Todd's comments at the meeting not so annoying."
So to slow...to breathe...to be...in that space where it is you and God creatively connecting. The holy space of divine dance. The still small voice Elijah heard only days after fleeing from his life. To turn off the glaring at screens...and constantly glancing to see the latest tweet or breaking news...to center yourself in the One who is the ground/source/foundation of life.
It is my prayer that such an invitation would not just sit in your mind, but make its way deep into your life...and in a practice of just being today or tomorrow...you would sense more than a trace of God's grace.