Reflections – 2013.09
PRAYING WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED? – September 2013
I have been thinking lately about prayer. A younger friend asked me last week how we should approach God – like a friend, like a King, in some other way? When I was growing up I was always taught that we close our eyes, fold our hands, and bow our heads to pray, an instruction I have passed on by habit. I am not sure why that was the instruction, but I think the idea was to reduce distraction and to put one’s self in a humble position before God. Why we did not kneel or something more dramatically humble, I am not sure – maybe the reason was practical.
I was reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and in his satirical way, he suggests that bodily position is very important – that what our bodies do impacts our souls. This is certainly true in other areas besides prayer. We affirm the importance and connection of mind, body and spirit in a person – so maybe Lewis is right, get the body position right for prayer, and it will help.
Another Englishman, John Bunyan, in his writings on prayer, expresses great concern that we can get all the forms right, get the body positions right, pray our Lord’s Prayer, say our Creed, know our Bible even, and be far from God. He is pretty strongly against any form in prayer, opting instead for what he calls “praying in the Spirit.” Bunyan would not have anyone think that they can pray the correct words and that this is enough, even if the life being lived has no connection to these words. He says, “it is not your words that God so much regards … His eye is on the brokenness of your hearts.”
And then, as we consider the Psalms, we find obvious structure sometimes in the psalmists’ prayers, and sometimes stream of consciousness type reflection, and sometimes a bit of both. Lewis, Bunyan, the psalmists, my friend – all desire the same thing … a full, honest, humble, informed communication with their God. They want to know Him. And they do not want Him to abandon them. I think that is where most Christians are. We want to be able to speak to God, to know Him. We wrestle with how to best do that consistently. There are obstacles. There are answers. There are efforts at growing in this area of life. Fundamentally we know that prayer is essential …. and that it is hard.
But let’s not let the difficulty of the task keep us from the task. Together, beginning 6:30 on September 15 at the Holiday Inn Express in Aberdeen, we will gather as a congregation and pray together. These times will be led by one of the elders and will be an opportunity for us to praise our God, to lift up our concerns before His throne, to express thanksgiving for what He has done. Bring your children and let them learn about prayer through listening to others and participating themselves. I am hopeful that this time in prayer during the Fall will bind us closer together as a congregation, and that the Lord will be glorified in it all.