Psalm 95: A Season for Worship

Girl WorshippingPsalter:  Psalm 95 (Lent 3A)

O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!  For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.  The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed.  O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!  Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.  For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not regard my ways.” Therefore in my anger I swore, “They shall not enter my rest.”

Sometimes I think that “worship” in our culture is defined based on how gratifying it is to us, on whether or not it is meaningful to us or leave us feeling “spiritual”.   Our worship is sort of graded based on how good the sermon is, or how wonderful the music is, or how it makes us feel.  I know I fall into that trap.  There are just certain styles of worship and worship music that do not feel “worshipful” to me.  But, really, is that what worship is?  What is the point of worship?  Worshippers in Early Judaism believed that God was actually IN the worship space that they carried with them.  And so they would approach the tabernacle with awe and joy.  They didn’t get wrapped up in worship styles or whether or not they liked the sermon.  Worship was about God, about coming into the very Presence of God with thanksgiving.  Worship was about realizing that there was more than us, that God held all of Creation in the Divine Hands and was worthy of worship.

So, when did we lose that?  When did we lose the notion that worship is not about us? Soren Kierkegaard, when talking about worship, asked that we think about what it means to us.  Using his depiction of worship as a theater, think about your own notion of worship.  Where is the stage?  (Most would say the chancel or the altar.  (Newsflash:  It’s really NOT a stage.))  Who are the actors?  (Most would say the clergy, the choir, and perhaps the ushers and acolytes, those that “make it happen”)  Who is the audience?  (Well, of course the congregation.)  But Kierkegaard would say that the stage is the whole sanctuary, perhaps the whole world, all  of those places where worship happens.  And the actors?  Well that would be us–all of us, all of us bowing in worship.  And the audience?  The audience is God.  I love that.  I think it reminds us that we are not the center of worship.  It is not about us.

The Psalm reminds us that God is the God of all, that everything is within God’s realm, resting in God.  So we are called to make a joyful noise.  It doesn’t call for happiness.  Happiness, that self-gratifying feeling, is always a little bit elusive.  But joy–joy resides in the deepest part of our being.  It is that sense of awe and presence when we know that God is there, always there, and can do nothing else but come into God’s Presence, nothing else but worship the God of us all.  God desires our worship, not because God is selfish, not because God wants to be honored, not because we in some way owe God that; God desires our worship because God desires us, wants desperately to be with us, for us to feel and know and live in God’s Presence.  And, there, there in God’s Presence, we worship.  Our whole lives, we worship.  Every moment, every place, every piece of our being, worships. O Come, Let us Sing to the Lord!

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.  (William Temple)

On this third Sunday of the Lenten Season, think about your own worship.  Who is the audience?  What would it mean for your worship to be solely about God and not about you? 

Grace and Peace,


To Thirst

ThirstyScripture Passage:  Exodus 17: 1-7 (Lent 3A)

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Life in the wilderness is, obviously, precarious.  They have put their trust in God and in Moses and here they are in the middle of the desert, the hot sun beating down upon them.  There is no water anywhere.  It seems to many that God has all but deserted them.  They had done exactly what they were told and now they thought they would surely die in the desert.  And poor Moses.  All he can do is listen to the complaining that is directed right at him.  But what could he do?  He can’t make water.  He can’t command the skies to rain.  He probably wishes that he could just run away.  After all, whose idea was it to make him the leader anyway?  He is surely questioning how he got into this mess.

This is not some sort of metaphorical thirst.  They were thirsty–really, really, parched and dry thirsty; there was no water.  Thirst is perhaps the deepest of human physical needs.  What does it mean to thirst for the things you need the most?  It’s hard for us in the Western part of the globe to even imagine.  (As I write this, I actually got thirsty and went and filled a glass with filtered spring water from Kroger.)  And yet, 780 million people lack access to clean and healthy water.  That’s about 1 in 9 people in the world or about 2 1/2 times the population of the United States.  Lack of access to clean water and sanitation kills children at a rate equivalent to a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.  And, amazingly, an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the average person in a developing country slum uses for an entire day.  Thirst is real.

So did you know that in 2016, the sale of bottled water actually surpassed the sale of other soft drinks.  Well, aren’t we enlightened?  But as we fill our recycle bins with plastic water bottles, what does this mean for us?  For what do we thirst?  Again, don’t think of it as metaphorical.  It is real.  Maybe it’s not physical, but it’s real. For what do you thirst?  For security?  For a life of ease and plenty?  For things to just make a little more sense?  Do you thirst for life as you’ve planned it?  Do you thirst for righteousness?  For justice? For peace?  For meaning?  How many of us simply thirst to be alive, truly alive, in the deepest depth of our being?  Being alive is thirsting for God, thirsting for the one who can walk us through grief and shadows and even death and give us life.  It means that we thirst for the one who thirsts for us.  Thirsting is the thing that makes us real.

Dag Hammarskjold wrote in his journal the words, “I am the vessel, the draught is God’s.  And God is the thirsty one.”  God is thirsty.  God’s love for each of us is so deep, so intense, so desiring our response that it can only be characterized as a thirst. God, parched and dry, thirsts for our thirst.  So, is the Lord among us or not?  God knows everything about you.  The very hairs of your head are numbered.  Nothing in your life is unimportant to God.  God has always been with you, always loved you, and always yearned for you to come into the awareness of God’s Presence in your life for which we strive, that sense of needing something more in the deepest part of you, so much that it leaves you parched without it.  And, ironically, it means letting go of the need to quench your thirst.  Because it is thirst for God that this journey is about.  Ironically, we are not questing to quench it but to live it, to open ourselves to the waters that hold God’s creative Spirit.  To thirst is to be.  To thirst is to know in the deepest part of our being that we need God.  To thirst is to be alive.

I thirst for you.  Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe my love for you:  I thirst for you.  I thirst to love and be loved by you—that is how precious you are to me.  I thirst for you.  Come to me, and fill your heart and heal your wounds…Open to me, come to me, thirst for me, give me your life—and I will prove to you how important you are to my heart.  Do you find this hard to believe?  Then look at the cross, look at my heart that was pierced for you…Then listen again to the words I spoke there—for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you:  I thirst.  Come to me with your misery and your sins, with your trouble and needs, and with all your longing to be loved.  I stand at the door of your heart and knock.  Open to me, for I thirst for you. (Mother Teresa of Calcutta)

Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  I thirst.

On this Lenten journey, I pray that you thirst.  I pray that you experience the deepest and most profound human need that you’ve ever experienced.  I pray that you will know what it means to thirst for God.  Because that is where you will most fully encounter God.  But while we fill our recycling bins with plastic water bottles and quench our thirst with filtered waters from refrigerator doors, I implore you to be a part of projects to bring clean and sustainable water to areas of the world that do not have what we have, to those that truly experience physical thirst.  There are many.  If you feel so inclined, I would encourage you to visit the website for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (Advance # 3020811 is raising funds for the construction of wells to improve drinking water and build toilets in Liberia, Africa.)  Think about it, what if you donated one dime for every glass of water you drank?  Do what you can where you can. 

To donate, click here (and for United Methodists, make sure and enter your church so the church can get credit for the donation.)


Grace and Peace,



The Dwelling Place

Open HouseScripture Passage: Psalm 27:4

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. (KJV)

The Psalmist gives us great comfort, this idea of dwelling with God forever.  It is our hope; it is our promise; it is what our faith is all about.  So what does it mean to “dwell”?  One definition is to “stay” or to “reside in permanent residence.”  That is usually the way we think of this notion–to live with God, to stay with God forever.  For us, a “dwelling” is something permanent, a structure that protects us and gives us shelter.  It is the place where we can go when life gets to be too much and when we need rest and sustenance.  It is the place where we can hide ourselves away and heal.  It is the place that feels like home.

IMG_0033[2]But dwellings also wall us off from the rest of the world, setting up boundaries of what is “mine” and what is “yours”.   They allow us to ignore the needs and the lives of those who are not within our walls.  I used to live in an older neighborhood in Houston.  Once filled with a few older Victorian homes and lots of small 1920’s bungalows (I had one of those), it eventually became a victim of the so-called “McMansion” syndrome as bungalow after bungalow was torn down so that a sprawling three-story (or even four-story) Victorian wannabe can take over the entire lot.  Sadly, when I sold my lovely historic bungalow this past September, it was immediately torn down to make room for “more” dwelling.  It still bothers me.  Is it appropriate to grieve for a house?  See, beyond mere protection and shelter, the dwelling has creeped beyond its own boundaries and taken on an identity all its own.

Is this how we read these words now, as if we have somehow taken up residence with God and God’s sprawling house?  Is that what it means to dwell with God, to stay, to hide, take move into a permanent structure (perhaps with other like-minded children of God)?  But there is another meaning of the word “dwell”.  It is also defined as “to linger over” or “ponder”. So what, then, would it mean to spend all the days of one’s life pondering God, lingering with God?  I don’t think God calls us to stay with God but rather to be with God.  The walls of dwellings sound to me far too limiting of a limitless God. (Which is the reason that the image of Christ becomes the new Temple, the new Dwelling.)  But this dwelling that we have somehow conjured up in our minds is not where God lives but rather where we want God to be, the place where we envision pulling God into our notion of who God is.  But to be, to be with God, means to go where God is, which means we have to open one’s mind and heart and soul to being the very image of God, to being the dwelling of God.

Once again, it requires us to make room, to clear our lives of the “stuff” that we have accumulated and to perhaps open the doors and windows and let the fresh air and light in.  God IS our sustenance, our shelter, even, at times, our protector.  But God does not wall us off from the rest of the world.  We are called to go forth, to be God’s image in the world.  We are called to ponder, to linger over, to become.  Doesn’t that sound a little familiar?  Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2: 19, NRSV)  And then, if you remember, she became the very dwelling of the Godself, the God-bearer, the one that birthed God into the world.  We are not called to stay with God; we are called to be with God, to be a dwelling place for God with God in God.  We are called to be the God-bearers.  It is home, the place where we can truly rest our souls.

My ego is like a fortress.  I have built its walls stone by stone to hold out the invasion of the love of God.  But I have stayed here long enough.  There is light over the barriers.  O my God…I let go of the past, I withdraw my grasping hand from the future, and in the great silence of this moment, I alertly rest my soul.  (Howard Thurman)

On this Lenten journey, what does it mean for you to dwell in God, to ponder?  What does it mean to become a dwelling place for God?

Grace and Peace,


A Gift in the Wilderness



Mt. SinaiScripture Text:  Exodus 20: 1-17

Then God spoke all these words: 2I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. 8Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.  12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 13You shall not murder. 14You shall not commit adultery. 15You shall not steal. 16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

This is hard.  The people are journeying through the wilderness.  Food is in short supply and nerves are raw.  They have quarreled and tested God but until now, they have had no real identity, no real purpose.  This is the place where they are finally aware of the intention that God has for them as a people. This is the place where their lives and their journey becomes meaningful. And God gives them this covenant.  The specific laws would have been selected from among the many social and moral laws over many generations.  It is probable that they did not magically drop out of the sky but rather grew out of a people’s understanding of who God was.

So many in our society try to make these laws more judicial, as if they are a hard and fast set of rules that God laid down, perhaps metaphorically slapping the people on their hands for misbehaving, like small unruly children.  There are those who think we need to post these up on the board (or in front of court buildings and the like) so that people will remember them (and, sadly, interpret them the way the person that pinned them up does!).  But these are not laws to obey in the “following the rules” sense.  They are the shape of who we are, the shape of God’s people.  They depict who we are as people of God.  It is about how we relate to God, how we relate to each other, and how we sustain ourselves on our faith journey.  The wilderness provided a gift of how to wander in the wilderness, of how to be.  Think of them not as boundaries but as declarations of freedom, freedom not just from the slavery endured before but from every time that we allow ourselves to be enslaved by anything.  I don’t think we’re called to remember the words of the ten commandments as much we are to remember who and whose we are.

This Season of Lent is not really about following rules either.  It is not meant to burden us or make us quit enjoying life or any of that.  It, too, is about freedom, about finally experiencing the freedom that God gives us from slavery, from our plans, from the expectations of the world.  God is not expecting us to follow rules; God is asking us to dance, to delight in Creation, to delight in the world that was created for us.  And the way we do that?  We love God. We love ourselves. We love our neighbor as ourselves.  And we learn the meaning of rest and reflection and glorious Sabbath.  That’s all.  But that’s the way we will know God.  Consider these commandments not as rules but as a glorious gift of God from the wilderness.  But, notice, we had to get away, we had to wander a bit, all the while shedding ourselves of the trappings that we have created in our life, of those things that enslave us, to really understand what we have been given.  We have not been given rules; we have been given Life.

If indeed we love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and strength, we are going to have to stretch our hearts, open our minds, and strengthen our souls, whether our years are three score and ten or not yet twenty.  God cannot lodge in a narrow mind.  God cannot lodge in a small heart.  To accommodate God, they must be palatial. (William Sloane Coffin)

FOR TODAY:  Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor.  And then rest, and reflect, and be still.  That’s all.

Grace and Peace,




When the Lord Spoke in the Wilderness



Traveling in the WildernessScripture Text:  Numbers 9: 1-3

The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2Let the Israelites keep the passover at its appointed time. 3On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its regulations you shall keep it.

Well, we’ve been wandering in the wilderness awhile.  Have you heard God speak to you yet?  If not, maybe we’re still not traveling light enough, still dragging baggage with us over the rough terrain, so afraid that we will be without something.  I, personally, am a terrible over-packer.  It’s not so much that I’m afraid to be without something; it really has more to do with preparation.  In my swirling life, if I wait until the last minute to pack (which I often do), I end up just throwing things in a bag.  Without taking the time to think things through, I tend to over-compensate.  And, more times than not, the bag that I planned to bring turns out not to be big enough or I have to add another bag.

The wilderness requires preparation.  The wilderness requires that we be intentional about what it is we do.  Why do you think God was so specific about the preparations for the Passover?  The Scripture doesn’t say to make sure you cram the Passover into your schedule once a year at a time when it’s convenient or when the weather is right or when you can find time on the church schedule.  Sometimes living our faith is NOT convenient.  Sometimes it gets in the way of our plans and our lives.  Thanks be to God!

Traveling in our wilderness requires that we pack light, that we leave ourselves nimble and with enough room for what we find.  The truth is, God is always speaking to us in the wilderness.  God is always speaking to us everywhere.  But in the wilderness, unencumbered by our baggage, we finally hear.  In the wilderness, we have to be aware, we have to be prepared, we have to present.  The way we prepare for the wilderness, the way we be present in the wilderness is to become aware of everything, to hear every sound as if it was our first sound, to taste the dust as it flies up and makes its way between our lips, to feel the thirst in every molecule of our body, to know what we need and to, finally, need it.  Preparing to travel light, preparing to feel, preparing to thirst is how will finally pay attention to the God who has been speaking all along.

On this Lenten journey, I hope that you have packed well and only brought what you truly need.  I hope that your bag is light enough for you to keep moving, to be prepared to encounter God at every turn.  Martin Buber said that “all actual life is encounter.”  The wilderness journey will teach us what we need.  In the drought, we will learn to thirst.  The wilderness teaches us to encounter; the wilderness teaches us how to live.

All your love, your your stretching out, your hope, your thirst, God is creating in you so that God may fill you…God is on the inside of the longing.  (Maria Boulding)

FOR TODAY:  Set your baggage down and listen…just listen.  Feel your hunger; feel your thirst.  Encounter God.

Grace and Peace,


This Act of Preparation

Moses at the Promised LandScripture Text: Malachi 3:1

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.

Preparation…we keep talking about, keep touting this season as the one of preparation.  So, if it’s not about decorating and shopping and wrapping then what is this act of preparation that we are supposed to do?  Our culture tells us to be prepared for whatever may happen.  The Gospels tell stories warning us against being unprepared for what is to come.  And this season…this season of waiting is also laced with exhortations to get ready–for the coming of the Lord but, as hard as we try to ignore the culture closing in on us, for that big day ahead.  I mean what would happen if we awoke unprepared on Christmas morning–without the required number of gifts perfectly wrapped and under the tree, without all the luscious foods prepared, without a decorated house, and, most of all, without a ready heart prepared to receive our Lord.  Whew!  That’s a lot on our plates!  No wonder we’re stressed.  What, pray tell, are we supposed to be doing to get prepared?


For what exactly are we preparing?  Maybe that’s our whole problem.  We live lives that are so results-oriented that we don’t see life itself.  What if everything we did, every act we lived, every breath we breathed was not so that we could have a good result or count it as something done, but, rather, was part of who we are, part of the very journey itself?  What if it was our journey, our living, in which the Lord delighted, rather than merely the result it attained?


You know, I love Thanksgiving. It is the one family holiday that I can truly take the time to do right. Sure, I cook way too much food. And, this year, I probably spent more than twenty hours preparing for a 30 minute meal. I planned the menu. I put the leaves in the table. I planned what the table would look like. I drug out all of Aunt Doll’s china and Grandmother’s silver (you know, all that stuff that has to be hand washed!) I set the table. I arranged the centerpiece. I straightened the house and rearranged the back porch. I carefully picked out which bowl or which plate would hold which dish.   I chopped and I rolled and I mixed and I stirred and I cooked and I cooled. There were no shortcuts. Everything was made from scratch.   Because you see, for me, the preparation for the meal is for me as gratifying an experience as the meal itself.


And now as the Thanksgiving meal’s leftovers begin to wain,  we prepare for the next big thing.  But it’s hard to remember that act of preparation.  It’s hard to look upon it as a thing in and of itself rather than merely a way to the next thing.  And yet, the passage tells us that it is the messenger in whom the Lord delights.  It says nothing about where the messenger ends up or how many people the messenger gets to the end or whether or not the messenger did a good job.  God delights in the messenger; God delights in our acts of preparing the way.  Don’t you remember Moses standing on the edge of the Promised Land?  All of the journeying, all of the heartache, all of the wilderness wanderings, all of the frustrations with covenants and golden calves and burning bushes and parted waters…all of that…that whole journey to the one moment…when he looked at the Promised Land that he would never enter.  There are those that would look upon that as a failure, as if he had not completed his mission.


Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” (Deuteronomy 34: 1-4)


But Moses did exactly what he was supposed to do:  he prepared the way.  That is what we are called to do.  Results are great but it is the way, the journey, the preparation that teaches us, that gives us life.  Our salvation does not come in one moment because we’ve done all the things we’re supposed to do but rather in a lifetime of preparing the way for God, making our way toward a promised land that we may or may not enter.  Advent is not about the results; it is about what we become on the way there.  God calls us to a journey of preparation–preparing our hearts, preparing the way, being open to that act of preparation to which we’re called.  Advent ends on Christmas morning.  Whether or not we are fully prepared is probably of lesser importance than the journey that we had to the moment when we looked over and saw the promised land, when we knew in the very depth of our being that God was in our midst.


Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. (From “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 3, 1968. Dr. King was assassinated the next day.)


FOR TODAY:  Look at your journey.  Look at your preparation.  Live it.  God is there.  You may get there and you may not, but, oh, what a ride!  Live a life of holy preparation because the Promised Land is already prepared for you.


Grace and Peace,



The Call to Prayer

Call to PrayerScripture Text:  Luke 11: 1

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

Teach us to pray…we still ask that.  Prayer seems to elude us.  We know that it is part of our spiritual journey but, yet, we still ask how.  When I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, I was struck by the Muslim Call to Prayer, Adhan, in Arabic, that rang out across the city five times a day.  I remember thinking that these people seemed to pray a lot more than I do, so I started praying at those times.  It was meaningful to feel a part of that rhythm, that call to return to God in the midst of life’s ritual and to journey with others who are called to the same thing.  I’m afraid that many of us tend to limit our prayers to our needs and the needs of others.  Our lives are wanting for prayer.  We want to know how to pray.  We want to have a deep and abiding prayer life that connects us with God and makes our lives richer and fuller.  How do you pray?  Who taught you to pray?  Why do you pray? What makes your prayer meaningful? Maybe that’s our problem.  We’re trying so hard to bring meaning to our prayer life that we’re not allowing our prayers to bring meaning to our life.  We’re trying so hard to find God that we don’t expect to experience a God who is already there.  God does not need our prayers; we do.  God does not have to be invited into our lives; we just have to open our eyes to God’s Presence that is already there.

The truth is, Jesus knew that.  He knew that people struggled to experience the real Presence of God and because of that, they also struggled with how to acknowledge and live with that Presence in their lives.  He knew that we struggled continuously with doubts about God and about what God wanted from us.  He knew that we struggle with what prayer should be.  So he begins where we are—in the midst of that silence that is God.  He began by showing the disciples what was at the very core of his own life—his relationship with God.  Because remember that Jesus had made prayer an integral part of his life.  How many times do we read of him “withdrawing to a deserted place to pray” or “going to the mountain to pray” or “spending the night in prayer with God?”  He prayed before he chose the disciples, when he fed the five thousand, and on the night before he was led to his death.  He even prayed on the cross, a prayer of centering and forgiveness.

The prayer that Jesus taught us to pray has nothing to do with knowing the right words.  It really is more about persistence.  Jesus continues in this passage by reminding us to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking.  Far from characterizing God as some sort of celestial Santa Claus who always brings good little boys and girls the things for which they ask, Jesus seemed to assume that God is already in motion, that God has already answered every prayer, and that God has already opened every door that needs to be opened and is standing at the threshold inviting us to enter.  So praying opens our lives to the presence of the God who is always and already there and gives us the realization that God provides life’s minimum daily requirements so that all we need to do is open ourselves to being with God.

The truth is, most of us starve ourselves for God.  We search and search for meaning and neglect to realize that there is but a bountiful feast laid before us for our consumption.  And yet, we continue to live on the junk food that we have created in our lives.  We just have to become aware of how badly we need nourishment.  And we need to pay attention to the rhythm that is part of us all.  Prayer is becoming a part of that rhythm, part of that creative Spirit that is God.  Prayer is more than words; prayer is being with God.

To pray is to go down into a deep well where the sound of the voice of God echoes in the darkness.  (Joan Chittister, in Listen With the Heart)

This Season of Lent is about re-patterning our lives to that Rhythm that is God.  Prayer is part of that.  As part of your Lenten discipline, why not set up your own “call to prayer” schedule.  Feel the Rhythm that it holds.

Grace and Peace,