One of the best parts of my work at the University of Kentucky is the chance to talk to students, faculty, and staff about all kinds of things, but especially about their spiritual lives and over the last two weeks, I’ve heard a lot about folks prayer life. Since we’ve been talking about it, let’s talk about it. This isn’t a professional treatise, just some basics I think are valuable.
The first and perhaps most important part of prayer is that God is not a vending machine. We don’t get to put prayers in and get stuff out. Prayer doesn’t make God like us better or doesn’t change God’s mind. There is no right way or wrong way to pray. Prayer is communication. Prayer is a relationship between our deepest selves and the source of our being. Prayer opens us to see God’s hand at work in our world and in our lives. Prayer is a place of honesty and openness. God can take anything you can say. For those of us with faith in God, prayer is our lifeline and our foundation. For those of us who are Christians, the Holy Communion is our weekly banquet, and prayer is our daily bread.
As I was tooling around Twitter today, I saw a tweet from Marisa Elena James (@MarisaElana) with the following poem embedded in the tweet. It’s a nice way to think about prayer. Prayer can be awe-inspired, prayer can be angry. Prayer can’t be apathy.
Praise Me, says God, and I will know that you love Me.
Curse Me, says God, and I will know that you love Me.
Praise Me or curse Me,
And I will know that you love Me.
Sing out My graces, says God.
Raise your fist against Me and revile Me, says God.
Sing out graces or revile,
Reviling is also a kind of praise, says God.
But if you sit fenced off in your apathy, says God.
If you sit entrenched in, “I don’t give a hang,” says God.
If you look at the stars and yawn,
If you see suffering and don’t cry out,
If you don’t praise and don’t revile,
Then I created you in vain, says God.
–If You Look At The Stars by Aaron Zeitlin