I was raised on peanut butter, jelly, and the Episcopal Church. A story that is older than my memory, but one I have heard told in more than one pulpit now, is of me receiving communion at the outdoor chapel in Kanuga. I was compulsively clad in a Superman outfit, cowboy boots, with a He-Man sword down my back. After receiving the sacrament, I moved to the center of the altar rail, yanked the sword above my head, and let loose with as much volume as my three-year-old lungs could muster, “I HAVE THE POWER!!!”
Fast forward 33 years, and I wish I could say that my spiritual practices burned nearly as bright. I have a two-year-old, an amazing, hardworking wife, and a job working as the sole employee of a non-profit which focuses on supporting Christian Formation leaders across the entirety of the Episcopal Church and beyond. Busy is a word that I loathe. Everyone is busy. “How are you?” someone might ask. The answer, “Busy.” What kind of response is that? Yet, that is how I would describe my prayer life and my relationship with God. God continually calls out to me and my response is, “I’m busy!”
I’ve been in spiritual direction for almost a year now. It’s been amazing. Having a spiritual director is like having a lie detector test for your spiritual life. He doesn’t admonish, he just points me back to my goals and holds me accountable. Recently, during a great session, I told my spiritual director that I was busy trying to save this Church. His excellent response, “Yes, and I’d like to make sure you are talking to God about that before you do anything too drastic.”
This was just the thing I needed to hear. I’ve begun a practice of stopping everything at 10:30am and giving 15 minutes of quiet mediation to God. I won’t tell you that I have found this an incredibly rewarding experience in the short time I’ve been doing it. There have been no great insights. No booming voice, no still quiet voice, but, I can tell you that I have become incredibly comfortable asking God to help me pray.
When I think about prayer practice, asking God for help in prayer is the closest thing we get to being exactly like Jesus’ disciples. We get to lay at the feet of our Lord and admit that the hardest thing to do is be disciplined in our prayer life. “Lord, teach us to pray,” the disciples demanded of Jesus. Rather than admonish, rebuke, or turn to parables, Luke’s Gospel tells us Jesus immediately said, “Like this, Our Father who art in heaven…”
My wife and I do the usual things you would do with a two-year-old at home. We go to church with some regularity, we say a blessing over our meals, and we read a children’s bible with her. Every night, when I put her to bed, it is the Doxology that sends her into her dreams.
Where I see my spiritual failures so clearly, and where I pray to God for help, is in guiding my life into God’s will. It’s like Martin Luther once said, ““Work, work, from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” I can’t say that I’m ready for three hours of prayer, but I am beginning to see the wisdom in it.
[This is the third of a three-part series on resting in God’s presence. The first part, “In Open Spaces” is here. The second, “Crankiness and Delight” is here. I encourage you to consider and discuss them as you seek ways to be faithful to God’s commandment for Sabbath time. I know I will. – Ed.]
How do you practice being at rest in God?