There was a man sitting in the fellowship hall one day last week. He was sitting on the front row of chairs in the Road worship space. Sitting there, he was silently yet intensely praying.
He lives nearby, but to my knowledge has never worshiped with us on Sunday morning. He came to pray. After praying for the better part of an hour, told me that he liked praying here. “This is a house of God,” He said. “I want to pray here everyday.”
“Wonderful,” I said, “but we are closed on Fridays and Saturdays.” I felt the need to tell him this because I really believed he intended to pray here everyday. I did not want him showing up to find the door locked on the weekend.
“You are closed on Friday and Saturday? I need a place to pray everyday. I can pray at home, but it is not the same.”
I invited him to come and pray anytime. He said that he would. When he had left, I could not escape the sense that somehow God was speaking to me and maybe even to us through this man’s need to pray and his resolve to do so. If I am honest with myself this seems a little odd. Odd in that I am not accustomed to hearing God’s promptings from those who are so different from me. He was an Indian from India. He was Muslim. His English was not always easily understood. What could God possibly be trying to say through this man?
As I recalled my conversation with him, I could not get beyond the enthusiastic way that he announced that this was a place where he could pray, a house of God. This man was relieved to have a place to pray. Prayer seemed very important to him.
For me, prayer is not an obligation. It is a privilege, a gift. I don’t have to pray, I get to pray. As Christians, we don’t have to pray, we get to pray. We get to be in relationship with God. Prayer is that relationship. Without prayer, whatever experiences we may have had with God are just memories. Prayer is the way our relationship with God continues to have impact and meaning in our lives.
As individuals, we can meet God in prayer wherever we find ourselves. As a church, we have the same flexibility yet we need for two or more of us to be together. We can do it in the sanctuary, at a park or in a hospital room.
My fear is that collectively and individually we too often neglect our relationship with God because we can. God’s grace has saved us. There is nothing that can undo that. We can pray if we want to, but we are not going to get anymore saved than we already are. Since we don’t have to pray, we don’t. That is, until a crisis occurs. Then we storm the gates of heaven beseeching God’s intervention.
What we miss in such an erratic and delinquent prayer life is intimacy. The God we often cry out to in times of distress has always wanted to be the God who listens to our lives each day. The God we turn to in times of trouble has always wanted to be the God who speaks to us in hard times as well as in good times.
Let us pray. . .