Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why pray?

This Lent, quite a number of churches are offering daily reflections written by members of their congregations (and I hope you've seen the daily reflections written by members of St. Paul's; you can reach it by clicking the purple cross to the left).

Among those that have touched me the most is by my dear friend Carolyn Foland, at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento. Her reflection is based on my favorite psalm.

Here is her reflection:
Psalm 139 
O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

Then why pray? God knows everything anyway.

I don’t pray for God to understand what I need. I pray to understand what I need. Okay, what’s the problem I need help with? Well, it’s this . . . . no, wait, the more I think about it, it’s more this. What did I do to get here? Why did this happen again? What help do I need to get out of here? What action do I need to take?

This inner dialog, I believe, is the process of being in relationship with God. It’s rather like guided meditation. I’m trusting the process to lead me to understand what I need from God and to be open to receiving it. It is a process of learning what to let go of and what I should be doing for myself. I can learn, if I am honest, what there is in the situation in which I find myself that I can affect and what is beyond my control.

There are times, of course, when there is no time for inner dialog. Times for instant surrender. These prayers are spontaneous utterances, usually in the form of four letter expletives. They are also likely to be the most heartfelt requests for deliverance from what’s happening that I am capable of articulating. The one I remember most is when I rolled my MG after encountering black ice in Wyoming. God and I knew exactly what I meant.

Intercessory prayer is a reminder that I need to think of others. I need to remember that there are others with problems. I ask God to help those of my friends in trouble, to heal those who are ill. I could say “this is Your will, God, not mine,” but because I believe that God knows what I want – those I love to be well and free from hardships or danger – it’s less than honest to pretend that I’m cool with whatever happens. I care. I may later pray to understand why something happened or to accept the final outcome, but as long as the future is uncertain, God and I are both clear with what I want. Because whether I say it or not, he knows.

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart.

Carolyn Foland

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