Trading Prayer Lists for Presence
My mom has always kept a prayer list on her fridge. I know a lot of "prayer warriors" who daily present people's requests to God. But I don't.
I'm grateful for the "prayer list praying people." I know I can contact them to add my request knowing they will routinely lift each name and situation to God. I'm just not one of those people. That kind of praying is too heavy for my shoulders.
I read nothing of Jesus or the apostle Paul keeping running prayer lists. Although I think we'd agree that Jesus was truly present with whoever was in his presence and Paul offered prayers whenever someone came to his mind. I just don't think the latter's "pray without ceasing" was about cycling endlessly through a list.
After wading through the guilt of not wanting to and not being able to pray like others, I finally discovered a way of intercession (praying for or on behalf of someone) that better fits me. And my shoulders recognize it as the light kind of burden Jesus spoke of. Intercessory prayer takes different forms. Rather than prayer lists, for me it's "presence" and here's what it looks like:
Presence when with a person. When I sit with you as a spiritual director, I ask the Spirit of God to reveal, direct, and guide you. As you talk, I listen to the holy invitations in your life. I enter into silence on your behalf willing to listen and receive whatever is offered. In short, I give you my full attention. My hope is the same when listening to a friend in casual conversation. And if you're family, well, I continue to work on it...sometimes I'm more present than others!
Presence when a person is brought to mind. Over the years I've found that when someone is brought to my mind, I later discover it's at the precise moment when prayer was needed. A conversation has come up at a later time or I've felt nudged to go beyond prayer and contact the person. Even when we haven't been in touch for years and I have no idea of their need, contacting them has always revealed something was indeed going on that needed prayer! So know, if your name or face crosses my mind or you show up in a nighttime dream, I take it as an invitation to intercessory prayer.
Presence with requests for prayer. If you ask or email me to pray for you (and please do!), I'll pray right then or soon after...maybe with you, usually silently or actually emailing you my prayer. Then I'll let it go, placing you and your request in God's hands and trusting that if I'm to pray for you again, the Spirit will bring you to my mind. If I only pray for you that one time, I cannot think of better hands (or shoulders) to entrust your burden to (much stronger and gentler than my own)!
As 14th century saint Hildegard of Bingen once said, "God hugs you. You are encircled by the arms of the mystery of God." And on your behalf and for you, I believe this to be true, whether I pray for you once or one hundred times.
Be Here Now
You'd rather be anywhere but here
For when here is not enough
surely it's time to be there.
Though somehow there
always becomes here
and there you are again!
So be here now.
Then you can be
Week Three of Advent: Taste Goodness!
I hate the phrase "holiday rush."
It seems like a cultural expectation. It's one I can let myself get catapulted into way too easily.
Whether it's allowing my December to fill up or speaking and acting like I'm constantly behind or my to-do list is bearing down on me. Plus the holidays can really bring my compulsive perfectionism to the surface which adds yet another layer of drivenness.
How present are you when you're rushing to buy presents? How much of the Christmas season are you truly enjoying as you try to attend and do everything you're "supposed to" in order to make the days merry?
I can barely listen or see anything when in a hurry. And taste...how much of my meal (especially those holiday treats!) do I actually taste when I'm in a rush? Not much.
When the Psalmist reminds us to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8), I don't think that can happen if we're too caught up in the hustle and bustle. The next line of the Psalm says, "blessed is the one who takes refuge in him." Do I even stop long enough to allow God to be a refuge? Not nearly enough. I don't know about you, but I want to taste more of that blessing.
What if we join God in the present by tasting? It can be our Advent practice this week.
Rather than rush a meal, gulp down a cup of coffee or gobble the Christmas cookie, let's...
What will we discover? How will it shape our day? I wonder if it will allow us some needed space to notice how God is present with us, already offering us refuge (and other good gifts). Perhaps in doing something as simple as tasting, we'll taste the goodness of God.
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.