Friday, August 3, 2018

The Purpose of Prayer

Dear Friends,

Last weekend, the columnist Leonard Pitts wrote in the Democrat and Chronicle Newspaper about prayer. The takeoff for his column was the request for prayer by one of the hostages held by a gunman at an LA Trader Joe’s and the negative tweets in response by an Australian woman called "Elizabeth Post."

Of the many ways we can talk about prayer, here are a few to add to your own thinking.

Prayer is the name we give to the way we communicate with God. The purpose of prayer is not to call God’s attention to our needs or to change God’s mind. Prayer is asking that we see things as God sees them. Prayer changes us, not God. Many of us learned to pray as children. Some of us have moved on from the limitations of children’s prayer and have begun to pray as adults who engage God in a growing relationship. Some of us have continued to limit our prayer to an expression of our needs and wants, both every day and in desperate moments. There’s certainly room in our prayer to include these needs. We might also dare to venture into a deeper way of being with God.

The Scriptures invite us to call God our strength, our rock, the source of our being, our beckoner, our light. God accompanies us through life and when the road gets bumpy, God doesn’t leave us. Pitts concludes his column this way: “As a preacher I know recently observed, prayer is not just a plea to get out of our trials. It’s also a way of getting through.”

Still, there’s more to be said about prayer. As we grow to be more one-with-God, as our turning to God becomes more normal for us, our prayer becomes richer. Never perfect, but capable of depth. We pray in thanks for the beauty of creation, in hope for a greater kindness in the world. We pray that people use the tools of life for good, not evil. We pray for mutual respect and an acceptance of how different we can be from one another. We pray to be less judgmental and more mutually respectful. We pray because God loves us and wants us to become truly as human as we can be. We pray for world movements that teach us these ways of being and doing. When people like "Elizabeth Post" lash out, it is often out of a deep reservoir of hurt, recognized or not. We pray for a healing of hurts in the world of seemingly obnoxious people.

We pray to God to help us give up the tendency to violence that broods in us and sometimes just lurks under the surface. Violence, the result of sin, is real in the world. We know it. We recognize it, but not always in ourselves. We pray to God who loves us and invites us to give up violence and sin and embrace others whatever their lives may hold.

As we learn to praise God for all the good things we experience in life, we also learn to praise people for the good that is in them. So much better than condemnation for what we find distasteful!

Most of all, we pray to God because God is loveable and we could have no better life-partner and friend.

~Sister Joan Sobala