Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Prayer and patience ...

God's timing is not ours.

Can we all agree on that?

So, when we pray, we wait. These two actions are inextricably linked.

But we are impatient people, aren't we?

We often interpret having to wait as God not answering our prayer.

I once heard that what God does in us while we wait is as important, if not MORE important, than what it is we are praying and waiting for.

Henri Nouwen would agree. Listen to what he wisely writes about patience:

"Being patient is difficult. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of a bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not waiting passively until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Be patient and trust that the treasure you are looking for is hidden in the ground on which you stand."

As you pray and as you wait, can you at the same time live the current moment to the fullest?

Can you trust that God is at work behind the scenes of your life and therefore you are free to live each day as the gift it is, rather than thinking that "the real thing" will happen as soon as your prayer is answered; tomorrow rather than today?

I love Nouwen's last sentence - "Be patient and trust that the treasure you are looking for is hidden in the ground on which you stand."

Pray, friends! But as you do, understand patience will be asked of you. But patience isn't passivity. It is standing at attention, eyes wide open to all the answered prayers that are right in front of you, in this moment right now, hidden in the ground on which you stand.

God is too good ...

“God is too good to be unkind

and God is too wise to be mistaken.

So when we cannot trace God's hand,

we must trust God's heart.”

(Charles Spurgeon, 1834 - 1892)

Live carefree before God ...

When I am anxious about something or someone and my prayers feel like they are bouncing off the walls, I move my mind toward this passage from the Bible:

"Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you." (1 Peter 5:7 - The Message Translation)

How can I practice trusting that God is very careful with my life?

Once I start to rest in that truth, releasing the death grip on all I try to control through prayer becomes easier and easier.

What if prayer is more about releasing and less about demanding?

 

Yoga and prayer ...

Psychotherapist Carl Rogers said, "What is most personal is most universal."

What we think we alone struggle with is often that which most connects us to our neighbor. This can, of course be taken to its narcissistic extreme, meaning I come to believe that whatever I think, feel or experience is exactly what others think, feel or experience. But at its most true, Rogers' words simply mean there is something wildly communal about the human experience. 

Makes me wonder if my questions, my confusions about prayer are possibly yours, as well.

I was pondering prayer this morning during a slow yoga class wherein the bulk of our time is spent holding yoga poses for several minutes, all while focusing on our breathing. Though I was supposed to stay "in the moment" my mind did not seem to find obedience to this task interesting enough, so she wandered just a bit. I found myself holding a pose, breathing deeply and thinking about prayer.

"What are the basics," my mind asked me? "If you could dumb it way down, what would you be left with?"

As I breathed, these are the phrases that came to mind:

Believe - First, I must believe there is a powerful and good Force willing and able to hear my prayers.

Seek - This Force (let's call it God) must be sought. Seek first a relationship, not just an outcome.

Ask - Once there is some sort of relationship, asking for what one wants or needs seems possible. And if God is big and sovereign and good, asking for what one wants or needs seems sane.

Trust - This is where it gets hard.  After I ask, I need to try to trust. Trust that the ask was heard. Trust that the ask was received. Trust that something that looks like an "answer" will be offered.  

Wait and Watch  - I lied. THIS is where it gets hard. God's timing is not my own. God will not be hen-pecked into acting. God will move God's hand in God's good time. My job is to wait and to watch with both patience and anticipation. I am bad at both waiting and watching.

Surrender - I lied again. THIS is where it gets THEE MOST hard. After I ask, after I trust, as I wait and watch, I must also pray the most profound prayer that can be prayed: "Not my will, but Thine." For receiving answers to prayer is not like receiving the groceries you order from the delivery service at Wal-Mart. Not even close. Receiving answers to prayer is more like opening a series of surprise gifts given to you by your friend, spouse or parent who rarely buys you things off your wish-list, but instead picks out exquisite and surprising gifts you didn't even know you needed.

I breathed my way through the rest of the yoga class, repeating these words in this order. My mind found focus. I used these phrases to help myself pray for people, circumstances, seemingly hopeless situations. It helped me remember why I  pray. It helped me remember that it is sane to pray. I helped me remember that asking is the easy part of prayer. And it helped me remember that waiting, watching and surrendering are the real work of a praying soul.

Believe, Seek, Ask, Trust, Wait and Watch, Surrender ...

That was a good yoga class.