Today’s guest post starts a series on “Covenant Prayer” from Steve Witherup, one of the other pastors here at Center City Church. He holds a MTh from the University of Wales and is way smarter than me.
Mother Teresa was once invited to be the special guest of honor at a conference where several biblical scholars read papers, addressing topics such as social justice and servanthood. After the conference ended, one of the speakers approached Mother Teresa and asked her opinion on his presentation. I imagine the response expected was a showering of compliments concerning his amazing academic insight into an area so dear to the heart of Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa, however, responded by saying that she thought the paper was ‘o.k.’, but the best thing he could have ‘said’ was to simply pick up the broom in the corner and serve by sweeping the dirty floor.
We are sometimes very good at avoiding things by using the tactic of talking about the very thing we are avoiding. This tactic allows for our conscience to remain a little clearer while our hands remain clean. Prayer, for some reason, is something that seems to often fall into this category. We talk a lot about it; we recommend it; we instinctively respond to others’ tragic stories with ‘we will pray for them’; yet so often, we simply avoid talking to God.
There are of course a lot of simple, practical reasons why we don’t pray. We are busy, we forget, we wake up late, we fall asleep early, or we see no pressing need. I wonder, however, if there is not a subconscious reason that sometimes plays a part as to why we would avoid praying. This may sound strange, but talking about prayer may feel safer than actually praying. When we pray, we give articulation to the sneaking suspicion we have that we are in desperate need of another. By praying, we admit that we have exhausted ourselves and others and have been found wanting. It is at this point we ask ourselves, do we dare take the risk of crying out? Do we risk expressing our vulnerability? What if we put ourselves out there and are met with silence? What if we vocalize our biggest dreams and desires and they never come to pass? Would it have been better to just play it safe and see what happens? Ultimately, it is easier and much safer to talk about relationships than to become fully vulnerable and enter one.
…but who likes to play it safe anyway? The Old Testament is full of stories of people who chose to not talk about prayer, but to embrace the covenant relationship God offered and then dared to pray BOLD prayers; dared to question God; dared to express displeasure; dared to beg for miracles; dared to express their biggest dreams; dared to ask God to change his mind; dared to cry out why?; dared to express their absolute desperate need of God to rescue them from that which oppressed.
Throughout this series on prayer, I am not going to give theory, but am going to look at some of the stories of those who actually prayed. By looking at the interactions between God and people like Abraham, Moses, Elijah, I believe we can gain so much insight and perhaps be inspired to put into practice the simple idea of talking to our Creator.
Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Ps 116:2