Wednesday, July 23, 2014
I Want to Pray Like That
I sat with a friend last week over lunch, and after he said the blessing, I recalled just how much I want to pray like him when I grow up. His prayers are honest. They are real. And more times than I can account, it has been as if I were sitting in on a private and intimate conversation ... sometimes to the point of almost feeling embarrassed about it.
Me? I have a tendency to be concerned about my words. Are they the right ones? Are they eloquent enough? Do they sound spiritual? And heaven forbid I leave out something or don't cover all the bases, "just in case," when praying for someone, so I pray ad nauseum. (Lord, help me!)
In the early days of our friendship, I would bow my head for my friend to pray ... and there would be nothing. I would finally raise my head a bit and peek open an eye just to see what he was doing ... or see if he was still even in the room. But, no, he was right there. Head bowed. Eyes closed. And I remember thinking, "This is odd. Maybe he prays silently for people." But as I learned, he was not praying, he was listening. Here was a man who knew and knows what intercessory prayer really is.
He knows that prayer is not asking God for what WE think that person needs. Nor is prayer trying to pry an answer out of His hands by using loud or large words. Rather, it is listening to the prayer the Holy Spirit is praying for that person and then joining Him in it. Ruth Haley Barton puts it this way, "It's being present to God on another's behalf."
And so my friend would enter the stillness of prayer ... and just listen. Only then would he begin to pray out loud. Only then would he begin to speak those things he thought were on the Father's heart. Only then would he begin to hold me or whoever else he was praying for in the love and care and grace of God.
Just think how much freedom there would be in such praying. Freedom to not have to perform. Freedom to not have to manipulate God (as if we could). Freedom to not have to fix things in prayer. Freedom to be silent, for goodness sake, should we NOT hear anything. Freedom to speak what we DO hear. Freedom to just hold another in the grace of God before His throne. Words or not.
People need ... want .... our prayers. And we need to rightly give that to them. But how much more profitable those prayers would be if we would just be silent for a moment, like my friend, and listen.
Yep, when I grow up, I want to pray like that.
Just an ordinary moment...