Pastor Justin Baxter and Pamela Kramer
This month we are considering the concept of prayer which is fundamental to belief in a higher being. At his May 16 sermon, Pastor used Jesus’s prayer at the last supper in John’s Gospel to talk about prayer. This is an expansion of the issues of prayer.
Pam: What is prayer? We all know what prayer is! Of course, we do, or do we? When we were children, it was words spoken to God perhaps while we assumed “the position.” It consisted of kneeling on a kneeler in church or perhaps beside your bed each night, hands folded and reciting a memorized series of words. It conjures up the pictures we often see of children saying their prayers with a cute dog or cat also “praying. ” Then there was “grace,” thanking God for the food on the table. But always we had hands folded and eyes closed. Older now, some of us have stopped kneeling by the bed, but we still close our eyes and have conversations with God. Is there a good time to pray? Is there a correct way to pray? Are there things we shouldn’t pray for? Is God listening?
Pastor: Consider the prayer of Jesus on Maundy Thursday, when he knows He’s going to die. Jesus prays to God. It is a long, rambling, not poetic pouring out of his heart. He wants God to protect his disciples. “I have done all I can, now it’s up to you.”
Does God intervene? Does God answer prayers? If you are praying for a little red sportscar, only Santa can bring you that! But God does intervene and answer prayers in interesting ways. When I was in an unexplained funk one day in college, I prayed God would help me be in a better mood. Low and behold, a police officer stopped me on my way to class to tell me I looked sad, and he wasn’t going to leave unless I smiled. Was that a random coincidence or did God answer my prayer?
Pam: Does prayer always have to be formal? I don’t think we always have to recite formal written lines. Yes, the prayers said in church help keep us focused. When all words fail, we can recite the Lord’s prayer which has us covered. Sometimes, in the middle of a conversation with God, my mind jumps to another thought, or raises a memory! God’s OK with that. It’s a thought or a memory much appreciated.
Perhaps we should even think of prayer as being mindful. For example, the other day when I was walking my dog, I noticed the red peonies in the garden next door were brightly blooming. I didn’t have to pray to God to make them bloom, but I did pray “thank you God for creating them to bloom today.” Likewise, I do believe that God doesn’t always intervene the way we may want him to. When a loved one died, I did not pray to God to let him live, rather I asked God to do what was best for my loved one. God knew much better what he needed. So why do we pray?
Pastor: Why pray? We are compelled – my soul yearns for connection with something bigger and outside of myself – God. Prayer can take many forms. God is not offended by the language we use, or the ways we pray. Sometimes honest and authentic prayer looks messy and sometimes poetic. We rest in God’s love. There is nothing about us that is foreign to God. There is no wrong way to be in relationship with, and communicate with, the God who is love.