So if you read the weekly reflections on the text on our church website, you’d know that it seems like the texts that we get today are about prayer. We have Abraham praying to God, pleading, actually, and we have Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer. But if you read the blog post, you’d know that I think these texts are actually more about God’s character, as we have Paul talking about God’s grace and the Psalm talking about God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.
However, with what we’ve been talking about over the past few Sundays, it seemed appropriate that we talk more about prayer. But how, exactly? I’ll admit that I was a little stumped.
Last week I was sharing with you how busy I have been for the past while, and how I felt, in the light of last week’s texts, that Jesus was nudging me to slow down and take the time to just be. So while I was trying to think of what to say in this sermon about prayer, unsuccessfully might I add, I decided to just go over to Central Park and sit by the lake where I can go and pray myself, and allow God to speak to me.
I was fully expecting some sort of epiphany that would put this week’s texts about prayer to light. I was just waiting for a lightning bolt type thing to hit my brain and everything would click. I actually spent time in prayer so that I could come up with a good sermon about prayer. I was hoping that this time sitting alone by the lake, connecting with nature, and just being the presence of God would help.
Well, it didn’t.
First of all, the parking situation was pretty awful. I don’t know how often you park in Central Park, but avoiding the sap falling from the trees is no easy task. The weather has been so nice that I got my car washed, and I didn’t want to ruin it with that sticky sap dotting my windshield. So I had to park between these two cars that apparently thought that the stall lines were more suggestions than anything else. So now I wasn’t worried so much about sap as I was about door dings.
But still, I tried. I walked up and sat by the lake as per my plan, and it wasn’t bad. I was able to relax a bit and think between my frequent glances back to my car waiting for my stall neighbours to return and open their doors right into mine. I even closed my eyes for a bit to listen for God, allow God to inform me about prayer, and be filled with the Spirit that will inspire me and my writing and come up with a sermon that will knock your socks off.
Then I glanced back at my car and saw a squirrel just walking around on the hood of my car. Those things have pretty sharp claws so I took that to mean that God wanted me to leave. Don’t want my car to get scratched up more than it already is.
Although I felt compelled to leave, I also didn’t think I got what I came for. So I drove down the road a bit to the other lake, and thought maybe I can get my inspiration there. As I pulled into that lot, I learned that they were filming a movie as half the lot was full of trailers and other movie related vehicles. Still, I found parking relatively easy, but I guess they were filming by the lake as there were even more vehicles parked right up on the grass.
But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I was going to be inspired, if it is the last thing I do, dang it. So I sat down and tried to ignore the hustle and bustle of the movie industry happening just 20 meters away from me. I listened for God’s voice, God’s quiet, still, and hard to recognise voice. Inspire me. Fill me with your Spirit. Tell me what I can say about prayer. Aaaaand nothing. I got some kids trying to scare some ducks and I found myself hoping the ducks would fight back. I saw another kid with his parents teaching him how to ride a bike. And I noticed that the playground at that this lake has been taken down. I realised that I missed my kids and my family and wished that they were there to enjoy this park with me.
So while I was trying to remove myself from the hustle and bustle of life and be inspired to write a sermon, all I could really see was the hustle and bustle of life. While I was trying to clear my mind of all distractions and worries, I found myself more stressed out because nothing was coming to me. While I tried to see God in nature and my surroundings, all I could think about were my kids.
And that is when it dawned on me. The whole time as I was trying to coax God to speak to me, I didn’t realise that God had already been speaking to me. While I was trying to manipulate my situation in hopes that I would be fed and inspired, I was losing sight of how God continually feeds me and inspires me. While I was praying that God would save me and give me a sermon to write, I saw that God has already saved me and how God’s steadfast love and faithfulness endures forever.
See, God isn’t only found in nature and in our quiet and alone time, God can be yes, but not only. God isn’t only seen when we are looking but is there all throughout life. God doesn’t only speak when we pray, but God continually speaks, God continually provides, God continually is loving and faithful. For I realised that God was there in my family, in our relationship and time together. I saw God in the busyness of life, guiding me and directing me through what I needed to do. I saw God in all aspects of life, constantly filling me with the Spirit, giving me strength and assurance that I am a child of God.
So what does that have to do with prayer? So often we think that prayer is a time to ask for something, to plead with God to save us or others, to create this wishlist of things that we want to happen and/or get done. But in my time of reflection, my time of quiet, and time of prayer, I realised that prayer isn’t about getting God to do stuff for us, but for us to realise what God is already doing in and through and in spite of us.
Because our God is an awesome God, one that cares for us, provides for us, and loves us unconditionally. So this God will continually give us good things, even when we don’t see them or recognise them, and will persistently be present in all areas of life.
Something that has been on my mind for some time now, as a good friend of mine Bob Schneider (maybe you’ve heard of him) suggested we do something like this a while ago. He had visited a church in which at the beginning of every service there would be a space in which people can share particular “God moments” they’ve experienced throughout the week. Moments in which God’s presence or love or faithfulness seemed particularly apparent. Moments in which we cannot help but stand in awe of God’s goodness. Moments as ordinary as every day in which we realise that God is there with us.
For me, it was that moment in which I realised how much I missed my kids although they drive me crazy. How much I wish they were there with me in my quiet time. How much I can love another human being that isn’t as me as I am.
What about you? What are some God moments that you’ve experienced this past week? I won’t ask you to share them now, but I will next week. Think about them, ponder them, and above all, recognise them when they happen or shortly after, and then we can see just how great, how merciful, and how steadfast God’s love and faithfulness is.
In this season after Pentecost, may we continually see God at work in and through our lives, that we might recognise these God moments and give the thanks and praise that is due. Thanks be to God. Amen.