That they may know you….
That they may know you.
What would it be like if we actually prayed for people, like prayed for them in the moment rather than later before bed or at church? Its a question that got me thinking alot about the practice of prayer and how that affects how we live in the world. Prayer has an intimacy that is as deep as one can get, if we think about it, there is a level of vulnerability in prayer. In prayer we lean into our desires, our fears, our questions, our doubts, and sometimes something happens- and sometimes its radio silence. So what if we actually prayed for people. What if we prayed with people in a tangible way?
A priest once asked me, “what is your prayer life like?” I was petrified. Some of us may know that feeling. I didn’t know how to answer, mostly because I felt like I should know how to pray- and I actually didn’t. As a child and young adult, I had suffered through sunday school, been bored to tears with sermons and adult conversations about the weather, brass cleaning techniques, the impossibly horrible hymn selections from that morning's service, but never once did someone ask me about my prayer life- or even show me what a prayer life could look like. So when my priest asked, I said “Robust. I have a robust prayer life.” What the heck does robust even mean in relation to prayer life!?!? Indeed, it felt like my faith was one which was best served if no one else asked or got involved. I knew who God was, he knew who I was. There wasn't room for more in that situation, but all I can remember was being so afraid of being found out. I couldn’t pray!
In our walking with Jesus through John's Gospel in this period after Easter, we continue to see and know a level of intimacy with Jesus that we have never felt before. There is something deeply personal about what he is saying and doing for us in the days after Easter. As a bunch of disciples, we are very aware that the ending of Jesus didn’t really go the way we expected it too. He died violently, he was buried, and while he was raised- some of us still doubt that. Yet sometimes life rarely goes the way we expect it too. We are following Jesus with everything we have, only to find out that he's leaving for good, giving us the promised Spirit, animator of our lives, to be with us. We went from being able to actually touch him, feel, eat, scream, yell, hold, walk, and talk with Jesus, to being given a reassurance of the continuation of that relationship with the Spirit, the often intangible force in our lives. Its hard to feel connected to something when it's just a feeling. It's hard to feel the point of prayer when the person we love the most is now out of reach.
Jesus this morning is praying with and for his disciples. Not at them, with and for them. He is both showing and teaching the us how to pray in a way that requires vulnerability and trust on our parts. Vulnerability enough for us to lean into our challenges, fears, loves, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, to trust that God is present in there too. Jesus could have chosen to go off in private and pray for his disciples, instead he choose to pray so they can hear him. This wasn't a weapon or a shaming of their inability to pray or fear at losing him, rather it was opening a window into the heart of what God is- presence, love, and trust, which is uncovered in prayer.
This morning we are being asked to think of life differently, to act in the world differently, to lean into our inner dialogue with God in the world around us, just like Christ does for us in the Gospels this morning, and trust. If we think for a moment to all those instances where we have said “I’ll pray for you”, or “your in my thoughts and prayers,”to someone who’s come to us with a need, but have forgotten- and yes, we have forgotten to pray. Our lives get caught up, we get busy, we think about it and then dont know how to pray, or what to say. Sometimes the petitions we hear from others or even ourselves feel too large for prayer, too impossible even for God. Being asked to pray for a miracle, when the cancer prognosis is terminal. Being asked to pray for healing, when the we are fired from our job. Being asked to pray for help, when suicide seems the only option. Being asked to pray for answers, when the baby that was longed for never comes. Being asked to pray for purpose, when retirement is no longer an option but a requirement. There is something here this morning that suggests we are often faced with situations like this, by a society which is becoming increasingly isolated, alone, less vulnerable. John's gospel this morning suggests there is a direction for us to take, as we seek to dive more deeply into the window of God’s heart.
As the Gospel says this morning this action, this presence, this way of life we call prayer is the source of eternal life because through it we are directed into God’s abundant purpose for our lives. Jesus prays with the disciples, aloud. He doesn’t mumble, he doesn't worry about what others will think, he prays for them. Not as a weapon, but as a window into the purpose and nature of his presence among them, a presence which transforms their lives and the world around them. He could feel their unease, their sense of unknown, their questions, even their doubt and choose to openly and intimately pray for and with them. He prayed that they may know God, feel God, see God, touch God. He prayed for their unity, their peace of mind, their faith. He prayed in the moment, and dared to stand among them and offer words that touch our lives, change our eyes, and engage our hearts.
So what would it look like if we prayed in a tangible way, if we leaned into our vulnerabilities when we offer prayer? What would the world be like if prayer happened when it was asked for? Every sunday we have a moment to contemplate that question in the Eucharist as we take in the body and blood of Christ. We are united to our common source in God, and sent out into the world in ministry. Ministry always begins and finds its grounding with prayer, that moment in the depths our being where God calls to us and loves us into the world. The way we accomplish that work is discernment, which is active prayer through question. In question we engage our deepest fears, loves, possibilities, and desires. In discernment we engage others for that work with us, and in doing so we begin to see the shape of God already present in our lives, the same shape Christ is praying into the midst of the disciples in today's Gospel. Friends, let us be bold and pray. Pray in the moment, and with permission of the other. When we, like christ, feel there is something that is calling us to pray- ask that person to pray with you. Pray in the coffee shop over your scone. Pray in the deli line up. Pray at the gas station. Pray in the park. Pray in the kitchen. Pray in the church. Pray in traffic. Pray on the sidewalk. Pray in the ocean. Pray in the pews. Pray. Pray using whatever words come to your mind. Pray. Pray as if it is the breath of your lungs, breath which your body depends on to live. Pray like the world depends on it, because it does.
Christ is calling you and me in this ministry we share, to pray, openly, vocally, publically, to pray so that we may know the Father and Eternal life. Christ is calling us to see and know God in active prayer in the world, active in the way which we encounter life around us, every single day. Christ is calling you into a new relationship through prayer, to pray without ceasing. How are you going to respond?