March Reverend Reflections

Hello First Presbyterian Church,

What is it that forces us to pray? I ask about what “forces us” to pray, because without some pressure we would hardly ever pray. We are far too busy and our feelings of independence and self-sufficiency are much too strong to pray without prompting. 

It is the experience of some need beyond our control that forces us to pray. 

In the hospital, even the most skeptical people became surprisingly receptive to the idea of a chaplain praying for them. God knows this about us and in his great wisdom and mercy he is willing to work with us to draw prayer from our lips. In order to force us into prayer he frequently puts us in places beyond our control. He does this out of love and for our good, because prayer is the most truly human activity. It reorients us to the reality that we are contingent creatures and God alone is necessary. Prayer is a formative activity, because prayer demands faith. You cannot truly pray without acknowledging your need and believing in the sufficiency of God. 

Unfortunately, we prefer distraction to humility and prayer. We become overwhelmed (according to God’s design to draw us to himself given our busyness and stubbornness) and we fix ourselves a drink and watch another season on Netflix. We do something that promises to relieve stress and all we are really doing is exacerbating the problem. It’s not until we humble ourselves to pray that we will find the source of real rest and strength that food, entertainment, shopping, pornography, or alcohol falsely promise. 

I know many of your lives and I know that there is no shortage of stressors in them. You and I have plenty of personal motivations to pray. Let us insist on it, then. Let’s call the bluff of those things that promise rest but never deliver. Let’s allow the stress in our life to have its intended effect and so “cast all our anxieties on God.” He alone is sufficient to carry them and to prove helpful to us. 

Lent is a perfect season to deny yourself of comforts both false and real in order to strengthen your proclivity towards prayer. I would encourage you to consider how you might participate with God in the creation of discomfort in your life in order to force yourself into the practice of prayer. 

I would also invite you to join me and others in praying together. Denial is only half of the equation. It’s not enough to just empty and sweep the house. (See Matthew 12:43-45) That is certainly part of the process, but stopping there leaves you vulnerable. Another distraction easily moves into the vacuum, so you must also fill it with new furniture. You must adopt the life-giving habit of prayer. 

To that end I want to invite you to join me for prayer on Sunday mornings from 9:30—10 a.m. during the season of Lent (March 6th—April 10th, except for March 20th). We will meet in the rear of the Sanctuary, behind the collapsible partition. I hope you will join me. 

I want to also invite you to consider making the Evening Office (a service of Scripture, prayer and Sacrament) a regular part of your weekly schedule during Lent. It is offered on Wednesday evenings from 6-7 p.m. in the sanctuary. 

I look forward to praying with you and to walking through this season of Lent together! May God become our only comfort in life and in death.

Grace and peace,
Jonathan +