Lent, Week One: Talk to Me

Welcome to Lent, Reader.

I feel a little surprised by it this year; perhaps because I’ve been really preoccupied with other stuff, or perhaps because I feel like I’ve been wandering the wilderness for a while already (don’t worry, I won’t go totally emo on you), but I haven’t quite settled into the fact that we’ve switched out of Epiphany yet.

Lent Madness, however, has begun.  I’m rooting for Hildegard, or maybe Cuthbert.

Because I need some structure in life right now, I declare Lent to be a time for a series—specifically, a series on prayer.  It’s the bedrock of Christianity, in many ways.  We go there first when something happens:  “you’re in my prayers,” “I’ll pray for you,” “I ask for your prayers.”  I’ve been drenched in prayer through the healing process of my ear (which, by the by, is behind schedule but doing well according to the doctors.  I got some of my restrictions scaled back, which makes me happy).  We talk about “prayer warriors,” about “the power of prayer,” about its necessity and its foundational aspect in this relationship with a less-than-chatty God.  I’ve asked for your prayers more than once, I know.

But it takes us a minute—it takes me a minute, at least—to talk about what it is to have nothing to say, or to bring only anger to the conversation, or to recognize that being silent is not the same as listening.  Thankfully, these aren’t topics that are never discussed; publications like Relevant Magazine and Plough take a run at it, folks like Jan Richardson and Anne Lamott write about it.  We as a culture recognize the fight of this prayer thing, and talk about it.

Quietly.

Because we want it to work, you see.  We want to go to a God Who listens and pour out our shit and feel better afterward.  We want to beseech our Mother to tenderly hold friends in pain and sorrow and fix it.  We want to hear that there is a plan, a point, a purpose to us running around down here making mistakes over and over again.

We want relationship.  So we pray, and we hope, and we try to find silver linings in the rough patches when God seems to be elsewhere, when the friend dies despite a whole nunnery being on the prayer chain, when that job that seemed like such a great fit falls through and we are left at the beginning again.  We talk about sitting down to pray as though it’s hard now but it gets better, just keep working at it, like Pilates or Sudoku puzzles.

I make no secret, hardy Reader, that much of this blog is my giving myself space to figure out my own things and asking you to come along for the ride as accountability and reflection.  So I’m taking this Lent to preach at myself (a phrase that terrifies me considering the very real possibility of actually preaching at anyone some day) about prayer.  My prayer life is currently a bit of a mess because of some places I’m flat out not allowing God to dwell, and having gotten my forehead all ashed up this past Wednesday I am very aware that that shit won’t fly.  “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” Prudence said to me as he traced his blackened thumb in the cross.  “May God take the middle,” I surprised myself by responding.  And oh, how He would like to—if I would simply get out of the way and let Him.

“Talk to Me,” He says gently while I’m throwing yet another tantrum.  “Do not shut Me out.”

We’ll see.

 

Pray without ceasing.  (1 Thessalonians 5:17, JUB)

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3 thoughts on “Lent, Week One: Talk to Me

  1. […] of Lent, Reader, if such a thing can be deemed “happy.”  Lent, though traditionally a pretty rough space for me, is actually a good time to go internal and take stock of one’s faith […]

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  2. I myself have always felt non-plussed by prayer requests. In my experience, prayer is mostly about being aware that God is here now, and responding accordingly. That response varies depending on the occasion, but my favorite sessions are those in which I can ask “big picture” questions: not cliche questions like, “Why is there evil in the world?” but rather things like, “What are Your hopes for us as a people?” or “How would You suggest that I interpret X?”

    This past week I was at the University of Illinois studying the private papers of a number of people who were active in that place one hundred years ago. Throughout my time there, I asked God to help me to understand these people better, to picture the campus as it was when they walked its muddy paths, to appreciate who they were and how they contributed to that place. Now that I’m back home, I continue to carry them in my heart, and I talk to God about them continually.

    For me, prayer requests fall within that larger context. As I recognize myself being in God’s presence, I share with God my concern for the people in my life. I know they have specific wants or needs right now, and I mention those in my prayers; but I am much more focused on discovering what God wants me to do in each person’s life; and for that, I seek the bigger picture. I ask God, “Who is this person — really? What kinds of things are You doing in his or her life? What can I learn from him or her? How can I contribute to this person’s story?” In other words, just as I ask God to help me appreciate historical characters, I also ask God to help me appreciate the people who are alive now and are part of my own journey. If they have specific prayer requests, I honor those but I try not to lose sight of the larger picture. The present moment with its urgent needs is just an episode in that larger story: the story of that person’s journey toward God.

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  3. Sheila Bigelow says:

    What a perfect post for today!  (And I’m highly relieved to hear that you are on track, even if behind schedule:  patience–and I want it now.)  I had quite the rant at God (or was it God, because does God really exist, and if so, what good was God anyway?) to day in the car.  At the end of the rant  (which was a prayer) I prayed for the ability to be still and for God’s presence to be felt where it was needed, although not in the way I feared.  When I got home, all was well.  It was not, perhaps, the answer to the so-many prayers that were being offered up surrounding this particular situation, but it was what we all wanted to hear, and  I am profoundly grateful for this light in a sometimes-bleak world.  The evening has been one of thanks and praise.  At least there are periods in my life where I, like Brother Lawrence, manage to pray continuously.  Even in the midst of rather incoherent email responses to well-written blogs.  Thank you.  And you are loved.  Sheila

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