“Sweet hour of prayer”. “Livin’ on a prayer”. From William W. Walford- a blind Baptist lay preacher in the 19th century writing about finding solace alone in prayer to Jon Bon Jovi in1986 writing about a couple trying to make ends meet, prayer has been the topic of songs, books, studies, and conversations in a many contexts. This weekend we hear Jesus’ disciples ask him (Luke 11:1-13) to teach them how to pray.
That prayer is a “how to” is only one aspect. So often that “how to” gets caught up in a “has to be” world of certain words or formats. I spoke with a friend who will be leading her children’s church time this weekend with one to four year olds. They will be focusing on prayer. What does one share with a young child about prayer for this stage of life? We discussed how children who each night have their parents pray the Lord’s Prayer with them starting from birth often hear their children at the age of 2 repeating the beloved prayer. Repetition is often part of prayer. We grow into the repeated words until they become our own.
We also spoke of the five-finger prayer coloring sheet and the bedtime prayers and table graces that are often taught in childhood. Prayer is modeled. During Vacation Bible School (VBS) this week we did a lot of praying. We prayed with all the students who came to be part of this outreach before the meals were served each night. We prayed with all the volunteers after all the children before we went on our way home to be ready for the next day. Prayer bookended the evenings. I know myself and others were praying throughout each evening for kids who were struggling, for guidance in how to lead, for direction when the weather prevented the outdoor games from being outside. We were indeed “Livin’ on a prayer”.
Prayer in the everyday and ordinary without being overly concerned about using the right words or phraseology is a way we deepen our connection with God. When Jesus’ friends ask him to teach them to pray they come to him as students open to learn. All week long I have been curious how I can keep being a student open to learn. This learning how to pray has a sense of a deepening of intimacy- connection- relationship. When I meet with couples to talk about their relationships and the challenges that have brought them to my office I often invite them to consider how praying together could be a piece in the reconnecting with each other and with God. It can feel pretty vulnerable to pray.
A friend reached out to me before her surgery this last week to ask if I would come to the hospital to pray with her and her doctor. Her own pastor had another parishioner in a different hospital across town. It deepened our connection as friends. It got me thinking about prayer and connection, prayer and relationship, prayer and practice. We get to keep learning how to deepen our connections with God and with one another.
This weekend when we work together as a community to practice love in action as we work on JR’s Sensory Room that is a time for prayer. Prayer as we paint. Prayer as we play with him and his siblings so work can get done. Prayer as we meet new friends and share in doing good in our community. Prayer often leads us to action and our actions can be a prayer. It’s both.
All week long as I have been at VBS on the heels of a week away at camp it has been a chance to deepen my trusting God muscle (faith) as I ask for what I need daily, wonder how it will all work out, offer up prayers for a world in great need that seems to be filled with so much hatred. Prayers asking for guidance and what is my part. Prayers for peace. Prayers for compassion. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving, private prayers, prayers for myself, prayers for others, prayers memorized from my childhood, prayers shared in a circle of volunteers, prayers in my joy and in my exhaustion, prayers in hopes, fears, uncertainty.
Livin’ on a prayer. Connected to Jesus who loves us beyond what we would ever ask. Trusting God who comes in our own form to let us know this and invites us into deepening that relationship every day and all sorts of ways. This is for me "livin' on a prayer" and I am so grateful that we get to do this together as we keep practicing, learning, growing and loving.