Pray for America.
From the outside it can seem like America needs all the prayers it can get. Until I remember that almost half the population cast its vote for the present incumbent. That huge swathes of “The American Church” preach for the present incumbent and pray for him already – have prayed for him for years now. That the other half of the country pray as well. To the same God (allegedly) – just for a different result. The direct opposite of those praying for the incumbent.
God isn’t short of prayers at the moment. Not sure God is ever short of the power of prayer.
Any disaster man-made or not is accompanied by “Pray for (fill in the gap)” emblazoned all over Facebook and Twitter (other social media is available). We have become used to the instant panacea of “Pray for (take your pick)” before instantly forgetting all about “(take your pick)” as we get back to our own busy lives. Each Sunday in church services Prayers of Intercession are offered. It’s a ritual without which worshipping God is incomplete.
God is never short of our prayers.
“Oh my God!” … “God help us!” … “God, that was close!” … God, if you get me out of this (???) I’ll never be bad again!” … “Praying for the USA” … “Praying for the earthquake victims” … “Praying I keep my job” … “Praying I get that promotion” … “Praying she never finds out what I did!” … “God help (add whichever group or country applies)!” …
The times I have “power-prayed” for one near death, I get a reply: “I know, Paul.” But I have to make sure he does. Have to remind him that this really important, that I would be very grateful, that so many would be affected if this doesn’t come good. He listens patiently each time. He thanks me. Reminds me that he does indeed have this. Just never tells me that I will get the result I want.
And I think that is right.
I have no idea the implications or consequences of me getting what I want. Never. I cannot see the future. I can only see the moment I am in right now. And from a very tiny personal context.
I remember praying for someone once. Someone close. Someone important in my life. I remember being on my knees and sweating with the energy those prayers took. I remember being exhausted from praying. Never have been before or since. But that one time every sinew of my being was in those prayers. And I had no idea if those prayers were answered. I thought they were – was fairly sure they had been answered. I just had to trust that they were and he did.
And the following morning I woke up and heard his quiet voice with just one question:
“What are you going to do now, Paul?”
So he had done something. And now I had to as well?
Isn’t that “transactional” God? Doesn’t this work by you granting my prayers and we all move on – grateful and happy ever after? Is this my payback to you for doing what I was told you would – answer my prayers? Just no one ever told me the consequence was that I now had to “do something”. Is that really “love” without condition? Really God … ?
It was only afterwards – a long time after – that I worked out what was happening.
I was asking for something for someone else that gave me as much – if not more – than “them”. That person and I were connected at a very deep level. If there was healing here it was for both of us not just one – perhaps more for me than them. It can never be for “just one”. It must always be for all of us who are connected. So – I now know – what was I to do with MY healing? Aptly and concisely put by:
“What are you going to do now, Paul?”
That night and following morning changed my thoughts about prayer for ever.
I was not asking for another – I was asking for both of us. And if I was healed by the granting of that request, then what was I to do with my healing? How was I changed and what would I do with that change?
Not as payback – but for MY own life and MY own living.
I intuitively “got it” then and responded in the only way I knew how. Not “one step at a time”. But in lifting or not lifting one foot … in holding or not holding that one foot in the air … in placing or not placing that one foot on the ground … in where or when I placed that one foot …
What I did was to listen. To give all that decision-making (at that time) to my quiet still voice and just listen. And he was with me every fearful and hesitant step of my way. A word. A sense. A knowing. An arm around my shoulders. A reassuring glance for my fears. And the space for me to have to “do” something. Looking back I wonder who was being healed.
I know I was.
I don’t think prayer is about “pray for” … nor about “transaction” … nor about “gratitude” … nor about prayers “being answered” (or not) .. nor even about being a “prayer-warrior” (whatever that is) …
Ever since those words: “What are you going to do now, Paul?” … I think prayer is about relationship. Not your relationship and not your need. But about me and my relationship not just with God but with you and you and you as well.
As in Love without condition of me as well as for me. And as for another “Pray for … “
Is that even about “Love” at all?