Prayer's Challenges
written by Rev Gary Heard

The spiritual life would be a whole lot more simple if we could boil it down to some simple commands which would suffice for every circumstance. If there were easy answers to questions such as “How do I find God?” and “How can I know God’s plan and purpose for my life?”, and even, “What does it mean to be loving?” (or just!) Unfortunately simplistic answers to such questions are not only insufficient, in the long term they will leave us entirely unsatisfied and extremely frustrated. Jesus’ response to one searching for God’s kingdom is illuminative: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) ‘Chasing the wind’ is a saying which expresses futility, but the experience of a fresh breeze is to be cherished.

How then shall we pray?

There are no simple and certain rules for praying: when, how, what to pray for, words to use, postures to take… except one: do it! All other questions are open, and probably multi-faceted in their answers. I would however suggest that there are certain challenges we confront much more readily within our culture:

Stillness and activity: The psalmist invites: “Be still and know that I am God…” (Ps 46:10) Why? Because God is the one who searches for us. Relationship with God is not a game of hide and seek in which God intentionally hides only to pop out on judgment day to condemn us because we never knew him. The words of the prophet are an important balance: “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord” (Jer 29:13-14) Spirituality involves stillness and activity, as does prayer. But in our activity-focused culture, the challenge to be still and devoid of our own agendas for long enough to be attuned to God is a significant one.

Ideal and Actual. In a perfect world we might be aware of God’s presence in every moment… (or would we?) However, we live in the midst of a multiplicity of demands and responsibilities. Sometimes the sense of what ought be stops us from appreciating what is. It is easy to be discouraged that we reach a stage of the day or week and have forgotten to pause for prayer. Many are tempted to give up, assuming the ideal to be unattainable. Yet by the grace of God, we are welcomed into His presence in prayer whenever we pause. One suspects the voices of condemnation are not God’s - His love, as echoed through the parable of the Prodigal Son, tells us that there’s always a welcome.

Learn the wafts of the breeze of the Spirit, that our prayer might be as fresh air.

July 24, 2005
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