A number of years ago, I had the privilege of sitting with a Church Council while they considered an interesting question. “If this church were to do only one thing, what should that be?” There were plenty of tentative responses around the table that mostly sounded like questions. Worship? Sing? Teach? And then the room got quiet, and finally the Chair of Trustees spoke – softly but decisively – ““Prayer. If we stopped praying, would stop being the church.” Folks sat with that for a bit, and moved into a conversation about how to make sure that prayer was at the center of the life of the church.
This week, I have had the privilege of sitting with some of our 2030 clergy in retreat as they wrestle with the question,?”“How is it with your life of prayer?”. ? It’s an important question for all of us – lay people and clergy alike. And it’s a question we don’t ask very often. We think it’s private. Personal. And most of us don’t think we “do” prayer very well. We are too busy. We don’t know enough. No one ever showed us how.
What if – instead of judging our prayers – we just…well…prayed? What if we sat for a few minutes and watched God watching us in the same way a new grandparent watches a beloved first grandchild? What if we began to think of our morning walk as prayer – drinking in the changes of season and beauty of creation, all the while giving thanks for the gift of a new day? What if we saw rocking a baby or sitting with a loved one in the hospital or taking a meal to a church member as prayer? What if we understood that helping to roof a Habitat how to buy accutane house or serve at the local Food Pantry was prayer? Or that even our next breath is a prayer! Or the busyness of our days? After all, God is in all of it, if we will only stop to notice. What if we started to notice?
I wonder if prayer isn’t really a lifelong pilgrimage with God toward an unknown destination that might look like healing or wholeness or worth or belonging or home. I wonder if prayer isn’t about cultivating a relationship – noticing that God is showing up in our lives and our world. I wonder if prayer isn’t about finding our way toward the center of God’s heart, toward our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world, and toward the joy of new life. I wonder if prayer doesn’t take us out of our comfort zones into those places where we are not in control, and at the same time move us toward the safety of grace and love.
There may not be an answer to my ponderings. Prayer may be all of those things….or none of them. It may look different at different times in our lives. But I?think that the question?”“How is it with your prayer life?” is one of the most important questions we can ask of ourselves and one another. It’s also one of the important questions we need to ask of our churches.
How are we teaching prayer? How are we organizing the life of our church communities so that prayer lies at the center and isn’t relegated to the edges? What can we do to foster a life of communal prayer within our churches?
So. How is it with YOUR prayer life?
—Katherine Mulhern, Program Support/Adjunct 2030 Iowa (Young Clergy Support)