All too often, people pray expecting something miraculous to happen and so they are disappointed when God's voice doesn't speak to them or God's will open before them. Most of us move through life without experiencing a burning bush, supernatural dreams, or visions given to us from the Divine. And yet, we often believe that the devout, the faithful, the true will have these experiences. "What's wrong with us?" we wonder. After all, our scriptures are rife with stories of direct encounters with the Divine. Story after story, we read about God's angels speaking to ordinary people and the prophets talking on a hotline to God. There was a time in my life that I, like many others, wondered what was wrong with my prayer life. It seemed that I prayed and prayed and never heard anything back. At some point I stopped thinking of prayer as a transaction with God or even a conversation with God; I came to experience prayer as time spent with God. This has been one of the most rewarding transitions in my spiritual life. No longer to I expect to leave prayer with any preconceived outcome. I don't pray to get something; I pray to sit with God.
That means that on those rare occasions when something comes to me in prayer, it feels especially sacred. That happened this evening during our Contemplative Advent Service. Each Thursday during Advent, people have been invited to gather together in a time of extended silence and Holy Communion. Our meditations have focused on God's peaceable kingdom. Tonight in the midst of silence and in the flicker of candles, I prayed, "Let me have hope. Let me know peace." Those two lines just came - over and over they came. And the plea itself served as its own answer for me. In uttering (albeit silently) those words simply and without caveats, I named a deeply important yearning. I felt heard and encouraged, almost as if God were saying, "Yearn for these more. You can't need them enough. The world needs this prayer."
Prayer is not a transaction with God. We will be sorely disappointed if we go to God in prayer with a laundry list of to-dos and I wants. God is not the invisible Santa. I know that there are those who say that faithful prayer expects God to act in the world. Yes, that is so, but God may not act according to my agenda and certainly not in response to my demands. Contemplation is the most rewarding kind of prayer that I've experienced. It puts me in the deep silence that comes with communion with God. This silence strips away the words and excuses that function as barriers between the Holy One and me. The silence brings me back to place of deep honesty. And, occasionally, like this evening it leaves me more truly who I am - hurts and yearnings and all - and, surprisingly more whole. Thanks be to God.
"Let me have hope. Let me know peace. Amen."
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