What is Prayer? How do we Respond to God?
How do we NOT respond to God? What are the things that inhibit us from hearing and seeing God with us?
We embrace the mystery of Prayer by stepping into a posture of Responding. God is doing so much around us and through us, and we make the choice to release the things that blind us and chime in.
Teach your body the vocabulary of prayer through the ancient practice of repeating sacred phrases with the rhythm of your breathing and actions.
This is modeled over and over throughout the Psalms (the Prayerbook of the Bible).
Today's prayer is from Psalm 16:2
"Hear the Story"
read with some commentary and a little explanation.
Why ask Jesus about taxes?
How does Jesus talk about life after death?
What do we need to do to hear Jesus say to us, "You are close to the Kingdom of God"?
the mystery of "Prayer"
the posture of "Responding"
Why Pray? How do we Pray?
Prayer is one of the greatest mysteries of faith. This ethereal communication with God that is at times transcendent but other times mundane, sometimes powerful and occasionally a slog. We wonder at prayer’s substance, its power, and its meaning. We wish we could do it better, or sometimes at all. Other times prayer is the only thing we have.
Prayer is a mystery that we let flow through us in a posture of “responding.”
Prayer is our response to God.
But how do we respond to God? How does the created “respond” to the Creator?
Perhaps the better question is, “How do we NOT respond?”
If we understand that God created us, dwells around us, moves ahead of us, and even courses through us, how could ever not be responding to God?
I was reflecting on parenting the other day with my dad, and I asked him if he remembered the first time he recognized me responding to him, answering him, connecting with him.
He said that he didn’t.
I was expecting to hear a neat story about awakening, or the birth of our relationship.
Instead, he just said that was the normal reality. I had been responding and connecting since birth–since that was what babies did…
But he did remember, he said–and remembered it viscerally–the first time he called out to me and I purposely ignored him.
He remembered the moment and the feeling of when I chose to not respond that first time.
How can we ignore someone who brought us into the world, cared for us, cherished us, and loves us fully?
Somehow we get pretty well practiced at that.
And then, how can we ignore the God who infuses us with being, breath and purpose?
Somehow we get practiced at that too.
Still, it is good to remember that we naturally respond to God. Just as an infant naturally responds to the warmth, sound and touch of loving parents, we naturally respond to God’s presence. We naturally respond to God’s power, light, wisdom, guidance, and this reality of creation that Jesus calls the “Kingdom of God.” We naturally answer God. We answer God with words, hopes, actions, pleading, crying, laughter, song, movement, sacrifice, and art.
We also practice ignoring God.
In today’s scripture reading we see the ridiculous challenges leveled at Jesus. The religious elite are blind to God’s presence and ignoring the voice of God. They’re asking about money and politics (imagine that!) and then they’re asking about how rules can be followed in an after-life (it's a desperate attempt to tune out God in their midst).
We get really practiced at ignoring God.
We will focus on money things, or other “valuables.” We get caught up in being right and perfect, or sometimes we lose our emotional balance pursuing pleasure, power, or prestige.
One clever strategy to ignore God is to believe the lie that we don’t deserve God because we’re not good enough.
The other clever strategy is to believe the lie that we are good enough on our own, and that God isn’t necessary.
We get so practiced at ignoring God that we will then believe the lie that it is a long and arduous path back to prayer.
We believe the lie that prayer is hard.
It is not.
One of the religious elite steps away from the distraction and responds to Jesus.
He actually responds to Jesus--he’s not trying to build himself up, or push-off Jesus into some gain or victory. This fellow answers Jesus.
And Jesus simply says, “You’re not far from the Kingdom of God.”
The guy didn’t even say anything brilliant. He just plagiarized a few lines from scripture that everyone else knew too!
He wasn’t eloquent, clever, or original. He just responded to Jesus while everyone else was distracted by winning… and Jesus said, “you’re not far from the Kingdom of God.”
it is right here, and it always has been.
You are responding to it.
God is right here with you. Answer God.
Respond to the one who created you, creates you, and loves every bit of the process:)
Respond to God as a child responds. Use words or babbling if that’s all you’ve got. Use actions and big movements, or maybe you need to use tears. And copy, copy, copy (that’s why we do Mantra prayers stolen from the Psalms). Beg, demand, and maybe try some manipulation (well, that’s not an official recommendation, but God can deal with our worst). Say “wow” a lot. Do your best to articulate beauty. And say “thank you” as often as possible. [When your last breath comes, use it to say “thank you.”]
And what about all of our practice ignoring God?
One of the favorite practices of prayer-teachers through the ages is some sort of releasing exercise of these distractions. Release all of the things that are distracting you and preventing you from responding to God. Oftentimes a prayer teacher will ask you to sit in silence, and as soon as your distractions, anxieties, and concerns flash in front of you, you simply imagine them plopping down into a gentle stream in front of you and floating away. You release those things, not because they are necessarily bad, but because they are preventing you from responding to God. Let them float away, blow away, or crumble into dust. Our spirits and bodies are constantly and naturally responding to God, and these releasing exercises just help our minds to be quiet enough to participate.
Prayer is a mystery. We participate in it with a posture of “Responding.”
God is doing the movement and the wild antics of miraculous creation. We just answer back. Originality and cleverness are not required.
And we hear the lovely words of the Messiah: “You’re not far.”