“Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The Gospel this Sunday from Luke 11 address prayer. If you think about it, prayer takes some courage! It is hard to approach God. It is hard for us to ask for help. We live in a society that values strength, independence and individualism. Prayer requires the humility to thank God for goodness and ask God for help in times of struggle. Prayer is bold and counter-cultural! Yet Jesus urges us to dare to ask. What can be intimidating about prayer is that we think there is a right way to pray. We don’t want to make a mistake or offend God. Luke 11 reminds us that it doesn’t matter how we ask, we just have to ask. Little kids don’t always prepare the perfect pitch to parents (babies just cry!), and neither do we with God. Here are a few simple things I have been thinking about prayer lately:
- Help, Thanks, Wow. Anne Lamott wrote a book titled Help, Thanks, Wow about these three simple prayers. This is a good place to start! I like trying to say each of these prayers once a day. One day, I may say Help in the morning (Help me be kind and patient today), Thanks in the afternoon (Thanks for the love of this friend who crossed my path), and Wow at night (Wow, what a spectacular day!). Another day I may say Thanks in the morning (Thanks for the gift of this new day), Wow in the afternoon (Wow is this rainbow is gorgeous), and Help at night (Help me do better tomorrow). It is a good way to offer a simple prayer to God throughout the day and keep me connected.
- Use your body. Words matter and are important to utter, but our bodies matter too. I like to think about changing my body shape when I pray. Just like in worship, at times we stand, other times we kneel or sit. Standing up tall and at attention sends a much different energy to God in prayer than when I am curled up in a ball on the floor. They are both appropriate at different times to express different things to God. Closed eyes affect prayer in one way, and open eyes in another. Palms open is different than hands folded. God wants us to ask in a way that feels authentic, even if that means a prayer of punching a pillow or laying flat on the ground and slipping into sleep.
- Use props. Praying to a God who we don’t see can feel difficult or strange. That is where small ritual or objects can help facilitate the process. The church uses incense as a symbol of our prayers wafting to heaven for God to hear. Blowing bubbles on a windy summer day can work, too, to symbolize handing our worries over to God! I like to use my jewelry. I have a big ring from Haiti that I wear often. When I am laughing with friends, I knock it on the table as an extension of my joy. Knock and the door will be opened for you. I knock a little prayer of thanks for the gift of laughter and fellowship without having to say a word. I recently suffered a second miscarriage and a great friend said to me, “I believe your two children rest in the arms of Mary and will always be a part of you.” As a grief prayer, I purchased a delicate necklace with two little squares on it. One for each child. I touch it throughout the day as a continued prayer to Mary for help and an acknowledgement of my grief. Like jewelry for me, tangible objects can help ground our prayer in symbols we can see. Symbols can incorporate ideas and emotions that are hard to express to God through words.
- Share prayer with friends you trust. Jesus tells us not to flaunt our prayer, but it has been meaningful for me that some people in my life know that I pray. Students will come tell me of difficult things by leading with, “I know you pray, so can you pray for…?” I have friends who do the same. Praying for one another invites us outside of ourselves and connects us to each other through God. Maybe there will come a time in your life when you will be too sad to even pray. This is when it is a comfort to know that others are praying for you while you work up your strength and courage to approach God again. And you can do the same for them.God is seeking a relationship with us, which requires action on our part, too. We cannot sit on the couch and expect God to do all the work. Luke reminds us that God is there, waiting to give, to open the door, to answer. God is a loving parent who does want God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. We must dig deep inside to find the audacity, the courage to ask, to knock, to seek. Our movement does not need to be sure or graceful or perfect. God’s answers may not look like what we expect them to look like, but they will be good and true and just.
God is seeking a relationship with us, which requires action on our part, too. We cannot sit on the couch and expect God to do all the work. Luke reminds us that God is there, waiting to give, to open the door, to answer. God is a loving parent who does want God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. We must dig deep inside to find the audacity, the courage to ask, to knock, to seek. Our movement does not need to be sure or graceful or perfect. God’s answers may not look like what we expect them to look like, but they will be good and true and just.