In the greatest sermon ever shared, our Savior tells us how to pray. Sixty- five words in my KJV of Matthew 6 compose what is traditionally called The Lord’s Prayer. Any pastor would admire it for its brevity and force.
Yesterday I shared with my friend Mike how I had gone to church this past Sunday full of anticipation of prayers being offered for Dayton and El Paso. I told Mike how no mention was made of either horrific event, and I later emailed our Pastor expressing my disappointment that no prayer had been offered up for either city. Our Pastor responded that he had been needed on Saturday to be with a family because of a life-threatening accident so he was unaware of either mass shooting. Mike listened, then asked, “Were there prayers offered up during the service?” Not grasping his meaning, I said of course, we always have prayers, at least four or five. He asked, “Did the prayers lift up concerns to the Holy Spirit?” Of course, I responded. “Then” he said, “prayers were offered up for Dayton and El Paso. In fact, by lifting any worry to the Holy Spirit, all our needs are lifted. We don’t need a checklist, Roger, for our prayers. It’s too much that way, so we just need to lift up to the Holy Spirit.”
After Mike left, I sat in my shop sanding a piece of pine tree root. A good physical act like sanding, with its repetition, is good for my thinking, and I had lots to ponder about my Sunday expectations, and how I had doubted my church and my Pastor. So many errors on one Sunday: I had assumed that everyone in church would know what I knew concerning El Paso and Dayton; I entered Service expecting everyone to act and feel as I; and, worse of all, I came away doubting my Pastor because his commitment following a fatal accident had kept him from being exposed to what I had read and heard in the news.
Luke tells us in Chapter 11 that as Jesus ceased praying, a disciple said, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” His version has fifty-eight words. Directly to the heart of how to pray.
Continuous sanding on the tree root brought its grain into focus. I considered Mike’s words and his point that we do not need a checklist of requests to include in our prayers. Turning the root over to sand the side to be unseen, I realized that a felt prayer, such as the one in Matthew 6 or Luke 11, was like the root in my hand: the back, which would be unseen, still was important because it held the side that would be seen. Although it would not be exposed to the viewer’s eye, it was still a part of the whole. That is why I sand and apply a finish to every back, as I do for each front of a pine tree root. In Hebrews we are told that, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” There it was: the back is Faith. Praying with Faith negates the need for a list of prayer requests. We pray for guidance, showing our obedience and need. When we do, as Mike would say, all things are taken care of.
Joan Chittister writes “Prayer that is regular confounds both self-importance and the wiles of the world.” My self-importance last Sunday short-changed my Church and Pastor, allowing the wiles of the world to control, instead of just being a part of the whole.