Building a Connection to God

Building a Connection to God

So, who can tell me, why do you pray? Why is prayer important . . . or not?   There are many reasons why we pray. Our readings from Acts and John’s gospel today talk about prayer.

Remember The Ascension and our reading from Acts last week when Jesus ascends to heaven and the disciples are caught by the angels staring up at the sky. As we read again today the disciples are sent to Jerusalem. They have to go to a city they would rather avoid. Jerusalem is full of emotion and pain. This is the place where Jesus was condemned to death. Yes they know that this is where they need to go; it is what Jesus would do if he was still with them. Yes they would probably complain and caution against going to Jerusalem, but they would go. This is hard work for them to do. Work that is risky and uncertain. So what do they do? They first gather as a group of friends and comrades and pray. This is the time to get themselves ready; find the resolve and strength they need from one another and in prayer. They pray for guidance and strength to do the work that is necessary. They pray that God will be with them. Prayer is the first thing they do before anything else. Before finding out where in Jerusalem they need to go, before working out a plan and strategy for themselves should things go horribly wrong. Before planning for the best or worst case scenario, they pray.  

This begs the question for us. How do we respond or approach difficult situations? Once we have gotten over the initial fight or flight response and we recognize and are resolved to moving forward with the business before us, what is our first response?  

Again while our responses can be varied, I wonder how many of us would first pause, gather our thoughts and pray. Often, myself included, I can find myself being consumed and focused on the issue at hand. I want to plan a way forward. Who’s involved, who’s not. What is being done? What is not? The issue and how to fix or resolve what is before me can often dominate my thinking. I wish sometimes that I would, like the disciples, have that natural, automatic instinct to first pray; to invite God into the process, planning and decision making. Often, pray comes after all is said and done. Prayer becomes a way of reflecting back on what went well and what didn’t. (Not a bad time to pray as well, though). Sometimes if I am really on my game, I do manage to pray before entering into the business at hand. The experience often is completely different.         

This invites us to ponder the question about our own prayer life and what prayer means for us. Our readings hold before us the importance of prayer and the power that prayer can have. It is easy for us to overlook prayer. There is an issue that needs our attention and we are programed to resolve it quickly and efficiently with the least amount of damage. Prayer is not always thought of as our first response or seen as a helpful tool in planning a way forward.  

Given our readings, I invite you to consider for yourselves what your current prayer life is like. Reflect on when you pray, how you pray and why you pray. This will help you get a deeper understanding of your current prayer life. I would then invite you to think about what would happen if you prayed first. I wonder how things would be different if we made prayer our first step and priority in everything. The first thing we do when we get out of bed, we pray. The first thing we do when we arrived at the office, school, shopping or the grandkids, we pray. I wonder how that would shape our day and help in our focus and resolve.  

Now don’t get nervous. Putting prayer first does not mean that you make a big complex show of prayer. Prayer can be quite simply: “Good morning God . . . Be with me at work today . . . in this meeting . . . be present with my family . . . grandkids . . . help me.” A simple prayer like this is done before you even get out the car, walk down the hall to the meeting room or ring the doorbell. People get anxious about prayer and talk about prayer. We are sometimes misled into thinking that we need a book with the right words, or is to be done when and only when we are at church, or when we are kneeling, or that’s what the priest is supposed to do. We would never want to appear false or ‘holier than though.’ Prayer is conversation in your words, silently or aloud, your way with our Creator and Redeemer. There is no right or wrong way to pray. Prayer is how we remain connected to God and how God remains connected to us.  

Jesus prays too. We read about one of his prayers in our gospel today. Again like the disciples he faces a difficult challenge and time ahead. He has a pretty good idea that the time has come, the writing is on the wall and he will die. So Jesus, in his way with his words prays to his Creator and asks that God will be with the disciples, to be with them and that they will have the protection and resolve necessary to do the work they must, even if he is not with them.  

This is a prayer Jesus continues to pray for us. As we live our daily lives, wrestle with the everyday and extra ordinary challenges that come our way, Jesus prays that we too will have the resolve, focus and protection to carry out the work of God in the world where we are called each and every day.