Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer
Prayer. It is something that is seemingly so simple, yet so many of us find it so difficult at times. A few years ago, I led a study on prayer and remember asking the group of mostly older adults what types of things kept them from praying at times. As a young seminarian it was almost refreshing to hear them begin to list off different things that stood in the way at times since I knew I had my own list, but the one that caught my ear was that there isn’t enough time.
It is kind of crazy to think that we don’t have enough time to stop and pray. We have time to make “To Do” lists, we have time to watch the latest hit TV show, and we have time to check social media but at the end of the day a lack of time is one of the things that stands in the way of us taking time with God.
We live in a world of schedules. The alarm goes off at 5:45am, we wake the kids up at 6:15am to get them to the bus in time before we race to work. Once everyone is home it is time to do homework, prep dinner, clean up, touch base with friends and family, and by the time 8 o’clock hits the couch is the only place we want to be. Exhaustion takes over, we go to bed, and start the cycle all over again. It seems that unless something written on the master calendar for the day, we will be so consumed by everything else that it won’t happen.
We can lead studies on how to pray in a variety of ways and we can send out daily devotions to our parishioners but I wonder how many see that email and take the time to read it and even further, say that prayer. I wonder how many of us congregational leaders remember to take time every morning or afternoon to say our own prayer and spend that sacred time with God? There are so many tools at our disposal, and I would be willing to bet that many of those who read this have a shelf devoted to those tools in their office, but how often do we take the time to use them?
When I think back to the many different worship services I have been a part of, one of the most meaningful things that I have experienced is a time of silent prayer. A time set aside in the midst of another pre-scheduled period of time; a time when it is perfectly ok for us to put life aside for a moment and just be with God. I have seen this done at the start of worship following the prelude, during the prayer of confession, and during the pastoral prayer. No matter when it was done, it was a wonderful moment when I felt the weight of the past week or the next week’s “To Do” list fall away. It was a moment when I finally felt at peace and was able to open up and feel God’s love and grace surround me.
The last several months have given us all too many reasons to need this time. I don’t know that a day has passed when we didn’t pick up the newspaper or check the internet and see that another tragic event has occurred. As congregational leaders, we don’t always have the answer. Unfortunately they didn’t give us the magic tool in any of our classes in seminary and I haven’t seen it show up at a Presbytery meeting yet. When we don’t have the answer and we don’t know what to say, we can pray. It doesn’t have to be a verbose prayer or one that is worthy of being published. We can simply open the door for each person to say their own prayers so they can put their own fears on the table for God in their own way. We don’t always have to do it for them. This also gives us our own time to do the same.
This time for personal prayer isn’t only needed in times of tragedy though. Every week someone in our congregation is struggling, but at the same time someone is celebrating. Every week a prayer concern will go unsaid for privacy reasons or simply because it is difficult to put into words. Every week our parishioners find themselves in the midst of chaotic schedules and rarely does “stop and say a prayer” find its way on the list. My only plea is that if this time is offered, there is plenty of time offered. Ten seconds isn’t enough. We don’t have to offer five minutes, but we want to be sure that we don’t rush one another in prayer. Maybe a familiar hymn, sung quietly while seated, will allow those who need more time to continue praying as the congregation transitions into the next aspect of worship.
We can teach all day, but when do we allow time to practice? Just as we find opportunities for our parishioners to do mission and outreach, enacting what they have heard and studied in Scripture every Sunday, we need to find these opportunities for our parishioners to go to God with their own prayers.
In this life of schedules and “To Do” lists, Lord, hear our prayers… Lord, hear my prayer.