Spelunking: The Journey of Prayer

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photo by Felix Russell-Saw via Unsplash

In here

is a cavern

vast and brilliant

Where old songs echo off ancient walls

and fresh water drips down to do its

long work of creation.

In here

the illusion of sterility can confound you

as if no life stirs,

no light illumines,

no generative communion draws

souls to one.

But in here

vistas open regularly

wild creatures rut and roar

the cave becomes a canvas

for a righteous riot of possibility.

‘In here’

eludes our best technology.

There is no cell reception in the depths.

And so we sit in silence

waiting for the Other’s face to compose

and hunger gloriously in the gathering glow of Her.

–Alex Joyner

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Shhh!  Do You Taste This in Prayer?

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photo by Tessa Rampersand via Unsplash

I understand the desire to lift up our neighbors in their difficulties in prayer.  In fact, it’s what we’re told to do.  Paul tells the Philippian church to do just this at the close of his letter: ”Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (4:6)

Lately, though, I have come to feel that we do far too much talking in our prayers.  Our sharing of concerns in corporate worship sometimes feels like the old community news column in the paper where the comings and goings of neighbors were reported in great detail.  So much medical information is shared sometimes that the prayers of the people become one long HIPAA violation!  [The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which protects medical privacy, is very familiar to health care professionals.]

So much medical information is shared sometimes that the prayers of the people become one long HIPAA violation!

But it’s really not the content so much as the way we pray…the way I’ve prayed as a worship leader…that is getting my attention.

The 4th century desert mystic, Evagrios of Pontos, called prayer “the ongoing conversation of the human spirit with its God.”  No conversation worthy of its name contains so much one-sided talk as the kind of prayers we send up, both in public and private settings.  If we believe prayer is the kind of encounter that can change us, then there must be space for experiencing the silence that is God’s medium.

51m8Rds-bhL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_We’re uncomfortable with such disengagement.  How long do our silences last these days before we reach for our phones or some other form of distraction?  Evagrios, even out in the Palestinian desert, knew a similar struggle.  “The devils will surely suggest distracting matters, desiring that your mind will search them, and suspecting failure in prayer you will know chagrin, and lose confidence,” he said.

But silence is worth the risk.  Sure, I have run down my to-do list in the silence that was supposed to be prayer.  But God has also spoken powerfully through that silence.

“Practice genuine patience, and your prayer will always taste of joy,” Evagrios says (as translated by the great poet, Scott Cairns, in the book Love’s Immensity).  Unburden your busy mind to the God who listens…then…shhhh!  Can you taste it?

Can we see a little less clearly, Lord? – Prayers for a Way Forward

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unsplash, Andrew Neel

 

WITH my glasses off

the thing I think I know

becomes indistinct and fresh.

A deer’s tail becomes a great white feather.

A distant tree, a man by the roadside hailing me.

When I run without my lenses

the world slips out of bounds

and newness emerges

like angels in our midst.

Since we are surrounded, cloud-like, by such witnesses,

can we see a little less clearly, Lord?

Can we lay aside our sharpened judgments

for some new appraisal of the scene?

And could the thing we think we know and want

emerge as something unimagined

but vivid clear to fuzzy sight?

–Alex Joyner

Your Giddy Desire — Prayers for a Way Forward

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photo: Unsplash, Tiko giorgadze

HOW good and pleasant it is

for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity!

So the psalmist says

and we believe it could be so,

though our glimpses of such goodness and pleasantness

are scant and near mythical.

Yet we long to live together –

to see as you see

and love as you love –

until our funhouse mirror of a creation

reflects your giddy desire

that we should all be one.

–Alex Joyner

For a Way Beyond Our Walls – Prayers for a Way Forward Continue

william-white-34988The Virginia Conference leadership in the global prayer cycle for the United Methodist Church’s Commission on a Way Forward and for unity continues…

Prayer for April 3 Conference Day of Prayer

In a season of discernment,

as your Church, in which we have met you,

meets across divides,

as a Commission confers on A Way Forward,

as we hunger for a way beyond our walls,

Pour out your Spirit, as we say,

on us gathered here.

By your Spirit, we say,

make us one with Christ,

one with each other,

and one in ministry to all the world.

Until, in your Spirit,

the blurred and blinding chaos

of this broken world and Church

resolves into a feast

and you are host and Lord.  Amen.