You Are Here
We pray for jobs. We pray for the health of someone we love. We pray for a number of reasons in our lives. During our conversation about Science Mike’s book on Wednesday night, we talked about our experiences and struggles with prayer. Throughout his book, Mike also recounts how his relationship with prayer as well as his understanding and practice have evolved during his life. He writes, “When I came back to faith, prayer returned to me immediately. I prayed all the time…but still, these prayers were haunted.”
For me, both the practice of prayer is difficult as well as my understanding of God’s response. Why would God answer my prayers while people continue to experience unimaginable suffering, starvation, and disease throughout the world?
I’ve always found it fascinating when Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion, he prays, ”Father, take this cup from me.” It's one of the few of Jesus' prayers that we know he prayed. The text then says that Jesus is grieved and within minutes, he is arrested. Does Jesus’ prayer go unanswered?
I believe the words we form are valuable. The words we say to God. The words we say to ourselves. The words we say to others.
One of my favorite quotes on prayer comes from Mother Theresa during an interview that she gave. When the interviewer asked her about her prayer life she said, “I don’t talk, I simply listen.” The interviewer followed up by asking, “What is it that God says to you when you pray?” And Mother Theresa simply responded, “He also doesn’t talk. He simply listens.”
My most prayerful moments happen on a quiet walk in the woods or in the stillness of a moment in the early morning or late at night. Often times, words are not necessary.
Our presence in the world matters. I like that Jesus journeys into the mountains or finds secluded places in the wilderness to pray. He makes particular decisions about where he wants to be when he prays.
The Irish poet Padraig O Tuama remembers hearing about a local language in Papua New Guinea that has no word for 'hello', but rather they say, “You are here” to which people simply respond, “Yes I am.” Padraig writes, “I have thought of the words ‘You are are here’ and ‘Yes, I am’ as good places to begin something that might be called prayer.”
Whether it's in silence or lengthy prose in a journal, our prayers matter.
May we have moments this week in which we notice the hello of God that says, ”You are here.”
And may we respond, “Yes, I am.”