A Silent Treatment

This post is not a call to punish anyone, to withhold communication for the purpose of driving home the message. No one messed up. No one needs to come to their senses and apologize. I am not asking you to take my side and refuse to speak to him or her. I won’t ask you to swear to a code of silence.

Pray or Stay the Same

Prayer and change go together. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. We say, “Prayer changes things.” First line of defense or last resort, we believe that prayer is the answer. Expecting a heavenly thumbs up or when our back is up against the wall, we bow our heads, put our hands together, or close our eyes and pray.

Undivided Attention

Now, what was I saying? My attention span is not very long these days. I say these days because I don’t remember which day it was that I began to forget when I stopped being able to catch up, to keep up with one day after another. Like these sentences, they all run together.

Our Prayer Language

We trust God. Of course, we do. We fold our hands and we don’t ever try to raise them to interject our point of view. “Listen God, I’ve been thinking and….” We dare not say a prayer and then intercept. No, God is in control.

Praying with One Eye Open

These days, I am traveling on “a wing and prayer.” While the familiar adage speaks to poor travel conditions, it is all that I could find. The other options don’t fit in the overhead compartment and, of course, would be an additional fee.

Praying Across Enemy Lines

The times, they are divisive. It is hard to know where to stand as it seems that our society is on shifting sand. With politics finding its way into every corner of our lives and kicking up dust, it is time-consuming to keep the conversation clear, the issues distinct from the arguments for and against them.

Welcome Home

Last week, I was studying at the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina as part of their Summer Institute for Reconciliation. It’s their tenth anniversary and I am certainly benefiting from the depth and breadth of the work of past facilitators, liturgists, musicians, and participants.

Something to Talk About

Sometimes, there is this feeling that all has been said to God or that nothing need be said. God knows it all, right? The psalmist tells us God is well-acquainted with our thoughts before we ever form them, sees our perspective before we come to understand it (cf. Psalm 139:2).

Yield

Praying hands are not folded hands, resolved that there is nothing more that can be done. We do not pray as a last resort. This conversation with God is not a last-ditch effort; it is not a stand in or a substitute when all else has failed. Prayer is not a desperate attempt for an answer or assistance after we have exhausted all our options.

Keep It Short

“Keep it short.” These were my instructions before praying at a recent gathering of faith leaders. While it is not unusual to be advised regarding the time constraints of an event or the page length for a presentation, this was the first time I had been told this about prayer.

Praying Naturally

Thomas Carlyle told a friend in a letter, “Prayer is and remains the native and deepest impulse of man.” There is an urge to pray because as Eugene Peterson writes, “Prayer is a response.” When we pray, we are always and at all times answering God, who spoke to us first.

Pray at All Hours

While we have come to expect a twenty-four-hour news cycle and, if we could, we’d stare at our social media feeds for just as long, the idea that God speaks at times and days other than at 11 a.m. on Sunday mornings continues to be a stretch for many people.

Prayer is Not Seasonal

Commercials tell us that it is time for families to gather around the Christmas tree and the television. Jingle the bells. Add snow to the background. Cue smiling families, dressed alternately in red and green, making snowmen and snowballs. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

Feeling Prayer

At the start, let me say what this meditation is not about. It is not about expressive versus non-expressive prayer, verbalizing versus praying silently. I am not attempting to make you feel “warm and fuzzy” on the inside or judge persons who don’t feel that way during prayer.

Where Prayer Meets the Road

We talk about prayer as if it is always easy, like it presents no complications. No experience required. Anyone can do it. Our prayer directions read: bow head, close eyes, fold hands, and add words. “It’s a conversation.” “Relax, you’re just talking to God.”

Writing When It Hurts

Writer and activist James Baldwin concluded, “The price for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” When I answered the call to preach the gospel, the invitation was delivered by one of Gabriel’s mail-angels.

My Will be Done

In my family of origin and true of others in the South, children are seen and not heard. To be sure, it was more instruction in role expectation than reality. The adults didn’t want to hear the children. Their voices, our voices were devalued, prejudged as needy, juvenile, playful.

Praying Time

Though there are times for which it seems that prayer does not work, times when it seems like the power of God has hit a dry spell, we are encouraged to keep praying. But, if I am honest, sometimes it is hard to keep the conversation with God going.

Praying in a Non-praying World

Be “in the world but not of it” is often expressed to help believers understand their place in the world, how not to be affected by its trials or inspired by its temptations. It addresses the tension of being in one place but living for another, namely heaven.

Prayer Is a Journey

Prayer is often described as a conversation with God, and this is true. We are exchanging words—human for holy, mundane for mysterious. But, more than catching up with a really, really old Friend, we open our mouths and enter divine passages.

Praying Between the Lines

Most of us are familiar with the expression, “Read between the lines.” It is an idiom used to capture the practice of inferring. Not stated explicitly or openly, it invites persons to find the hidden meaning behind a text or conversation. “She didn’t say she was frustrated. But, if you read between the lines, you could hear that she is disappointed.”

A Prayer Meeting

When I was a youth, our church had prayer meetings. There was no sermon, no special guest preacher, not even a well-trained musician. But, this was not what drew us. We did not receive text message or email reminders. But, there was no need.

Praying When You Cannot Find the Words

“Prayer is a conversation, a ‘little talk with Jesus.’ Anyone can pray and everyone should pray.” While no relationship can survive without communication, we talk about prayer as if it is always simple and easy. We suggest that anyone can do it and at any time.

Prayer is a Happy Place

“Let us pray” is not a call for sad eyes and frowning faces, shuffling feet or sweaty palms. Entering the presence of God with the thought, “How am I going to explain this?” is not the aim. Prayer should not be treated as merely a confessional for the wrongs we’ve done and filled with apologies for not being God’s “little angels.”

The Eyes of Prayer

French novelist Gustave Flaubert said, “The art of writing is discovering what you believe.” Writing, then, can be an exploration of one’s faith as I have found a keyboard and screen, paper and pen to be great conversation partners. If you want an answer for why I write—and I suspect the reason for many others—it is this.

Say More

Why is it so hard for us to “have a little talk with Jesus”? Why can’t we find the words to say? No mouthful here. For some of us, it can be downright awkward. Where do we begin? How do we address God? What do we say to the God who knows our thoughts before we are even introduced to them (Psalm 139:2)?

A Prayer that Teaches

Though being asked to talk to someone is not a complicated invitation, prayer is not your average conversation. Talking to God, who is well-acquainted with our thoughts before they are even introduced to us, can be intimidating (Psalm 94.11).

Believing In Prayer

Do we really believe that God hears us when we pray? If so, then why do we say the same thing over and over again? “God is great. God is good. Let us thank God for our food. Amen.” Fourteen words. Sixty-six characters shy of the 140-character limit for a tweet.

Praying Hands

These days, prayer is often seen as insignificant. We place it on our programs as a kind gesture, a pleasantry extended out of respect for our Elder God. It is a routine remark given—though not out of necessity.

A Bowed Head

“Give us, this day, our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). It is a prayer answered when we sit at a table for a meal—unless we are on a diet and have given up carbohydrates.

Arm-wrestling Prayer

After more than ten years in ordained ministry, I have found that we do more talking about prayer than actually talking to God. To be sure, we know that we should pray….

The Speed of Prayer

I have one speed: fast. If it were possible, I would go faster. As a workaholic (the first step is admission), it is hard for me to feel a sense a meaning without being busy.

The Tale of Two Prayers

My friend was dying. When we met, she told me that she had cancer. Though, right now, I can’t recall why that was a part of our first conversation.

Pray Before You Work

Most persons would agree that we are busier than ever. We work from home, participate in a conference call while in the car, and think about work at the dinner table. Calendars are crammed to capacity so now we borrow from Sunday to make the weekends meet.

Praying in the Shadow of Death

The Internet has been good for us in many ways. But, I feel that a warning should be issued at this point….If you begin to experience any of these symptoms, please stop using the Internet and consult a real person in real life.

The Big-Mouthed God

Social media allows us to talk more than generations past cared to. Both of my parents were the product of “The Silent Generation” and I grew up with the understanding that children and adults did not talk to each other.

Keep in Touch

Though our primary means of communicating is in our hands, we don’t have time to talk right now. Sending a text message is complicated because it opens us up to a potentially ongoing conversation.

Journey Prayers

I carry a stack of 3×5 cards, held together with a rubber band. On them are words that I have collected, prized words that I say to myself most days.

Prayer Watching

“Watch over each other in prayer.” These words are found in many covenants read by members of Baptist churches. Not to be confused with a creed, it is a community promise.

The Prayer Left Unsaid

“Lord, You know.” I was on the expressway one evening after work and found myself repeating these words in between long tears and deep sighs. They are not new or unfamiliar, as I had been introduced to them long before now.

Praying for a Sign

Have you seen Jesus? So often we are looking for a sign that our prayer was answered, that our request was satisfied. We want it in an instant and to our specifications. And if we are honest, we want it to be on a 70-inch flat screen.

Praying Unbelief

So, I hate to begin with bad news but Jesus knows that we don’t always believe. I don’t know if Jesus uses measuring spoons or cups but he knows the quantity of our faith. Maybe he eyeballs it.

Praying in the Dark

More often than not, we talk to God with the lights on. This is not to suggest that prayer is scary, that there are monsters under the pews or in our prayer closets.

Praying Scared

Usually when we think of persons who pray, we imagine great women and men of faith. Cue the climactic music. They sound like an elite group of believers and are known to some as “prayer warriors.”

Praying Hard

Praying is difficult but it is even more so trying when you don’t want to talk, when the words are stuck in your throat and it hurts to talk. And you know that the only way to make the pain go away is to let it out, to get it out.

Pray-Her: Let Us Pray

Let us pray. The words are familiar to us but the practice of conversing with the Divine is still unsettling, unrealistic, and even unusual for many believers. Like the children of Israel, we would rather someone pray for us.