Take a Step Back

Prayer is not a question and answer session, an exchange of whys for how this is all going to work out. Prayer is not God’s tell-all. It is not the time to corner God in our prayer closet and demand an explanation. Prayer is not a nice way to finger-point. At all times, prayer is reception. We are not the signal but an antenna.

Hands clasped together in prayer are not deal-making hands. It is not a give-and-take, though we take breaks when our prayers aren’t “answered,” when God doesn’t repeat after us. Prayer is not even what we say. Alpha and Omega, God spoke first and has the last word. In all things, prayer is a response.

Praying hands are not in control, unless our idea of God is so small that we can keep the Divine under our finger. Prayer is not our wiggle room, our place to get a word in that will—not may—change the will of God. That is, unless we think that the will for our lives is greater and the greatest motivator for everything and everyone else. Prayer is not our own little world where we are allowed creative license.

“Listen, God. This is what I have in mind. Let me know if You have the time. Because I don’t want to stand in line. I’m going places. I just need You to get behind me on this.” No, with all people, prayer is about gaining perspective.

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an intentional Christian community of able and disabled persons sharing all things in common, died recently. In his national bestseller Becoming Human, he writes a clarifying message on prayer:

For most people, prayer necessitates stepping back from the pains and joys of daily life. We need this stepping back, particularly from all that is difficult or conflict-ridden, taking for ourselves a certain distance, in order to look at things not just from our own self-centered perspective but from the perspective of the vision we are seeking together. That vision is to create a place of love and belonging. Prayer is a time to let light flow into our lives to literally ‘enlighten’ each day.”

Prayer is a communal conversation; all the world is chiming in. Prayer is not one-sided. It’s not just about us or them but about what we have been called to be together and to each other. In prayer, we are not simply dropping off what troubles us but getting the bigger picture.

And we cannot see it if we are in the way. So, let’s pray that we can take a step back.

Reverend Starlette Thomas* is the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at www.racelessgospel.com. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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