Does Prayer Work? - Pt. 3
When I was a little kid we went to this tiny Baptist church that had Wednesday night prayer meetings every week. At the end of these informal church services all of the men (which included any male in the joint) in the church would leave their pews and head to the front of the sanctuary where they would kneel on the steps leading up to the chancel while all the women would stay in their pews.
It was an old-school, hardshell Baptist church with all kinds of patriarchal hang-ups, what can I say?
Once all the guys had gathered, however, a good old fashioned pray-off would begin. The object was to pray out loud for as many things as you could think of, throw in as many "thees" and "thous" as you could, say "Father" a hundred times a second and keep going until you ran out of things to say.
There were always these two guys who would be the last two dudes praying.
By the time they were the only last two guys, they were basically praying nonsense, "Father, I thank thee for this floor that is beneath my knees and for the godly people who tithed so many years ago to build this floor, and I thank thee that thou made the wood for that floor and gave someone the skill to turn a tree into the wood for that floor..."
Finally, one of them would give in and the other would pray a bit longer just to show that he had something left in the tank.
It was a silly tradition.
But here's what I remember more than those two pompous nonsense-praying dudes... I remember kneeling in my church with my dad next to me, and I could hear him praying in a deep voice. I remember trying to think of all the people in my life I could pray for--my parents, my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, cousins... I prayed for my dog. I prayed for the sun to shine the next day...
I remember thinking that many of those family members were in the room and that felt pretty good, too. I loved the way things smelled--all church-y and awesome.
I also decided that God was somewhere in the room, too. Or if God wasn't exactly in the room---God was close. And I had the funny feeling that somehow, despite all of the people praying in the moment... God had heard me.
And the act of praying changed me. I never forgot those moments--ever. Even when I tried to laugh at them, and poke holes in the memory because it was a silly tradition. When I would close my eyes I be right there--feeling warm, surrounded by something/someone far bigger than me.
Feeling connected to God---and to the people I was praying for...
Continuous prayer--incessant prayer-- is truly formed by a constant pattern of honesty and openness to the God who is still speaking, still connecting, still surrounding us. And this continuous prayer keeps us tapped in to the Holy Spirit energy that is between us and all around us--energy that connects us to one another and to the Divine.
Because continuous prayer keeps us connected to God.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.