This morning I had the privilege of attending the Gaston County YMCA Prayer Breakfast at First APR Church.  Today is the National Day of Prayer:

The National Day of Prayer was established as an annual event in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. The observance of the National Day of Prayer is founded on the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion and can be celebrated by all Americans. [1]

And it is quite interesting that as we come to the week’s end, I will be helping lead the spiritual devotions and worship gatherings for Family Weekend at Camp Tekoa for First United Methodist Church of Gastonia.  You see, the theme for the weekend is around “prayer.”  Today’s breakfast gathering helped to center me in on what I needed and what God wants me to share with the families this weekend: resilience.  Resilience is not easy; especially for many of us who like instant gratification, an answer right now!  Resilience is easily defined by The Oxford Dictionary as:

1-The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
2-The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

When looking at these two simple definitions, it can really complicate how we understand prayer.  Often, many believe that prayer is when we talk to God to ask for what we want; and in doing so, we quickly forget about talking to God when we are in the midst of troubles and difficulties … we would rather turn to things that make us feel better: other people, electronics, pleasure, sin.  How easy it is that when we come to junctures in the road that are hard, rocky, full of potholes, foggy, and just plain ridiculousness, we toss God out the window and try to fix things all on our own.  Going about it that way, that is when we come to understand we don’t nearly come close to having the solution … leading us to another side of this argument.

The second part of the argument revolving around prayer is when we go to God in prayer.  As I stated earlier, we are all “hunky-dory” with God when things are going just fine.  But, we may also easily forget about God when we are in these “plateau” times; and then only reaching out to God when trouble hits, when tragedy strikes, when we fall on hard times … then, then  in those moments we cry out to God.  “Where were we before?,” we should ask ourselves; yet, we really ask, “God, where are you?!”  What we must come to find out, is that it isn’t about God being here or there, or even nowhere.  The issue revolving around prayer is that we should be internalizing where we are and why it is we don’t fall on our knees at any given moment, many times a day to talk with our amazing, everlasting, compassionate, and ever-present God.

Listening to the speaker at the prayer breakfast this morning opened my eyes to the fact that we really, really, love our God, and cry out to our God when we need help, when we are in trouble, and when we have no where else to turn.  How are we to change, and love our God, and be in relationship with our God in the midst of all times?  That’s a good question, and I am not sure I am fully able to answer.  However, there is scripture, and two scripture I will be using this weekend sort-of answer this question:

Moses was taking care of the flock for his father-in-law Jethro, Midian’s priest. He led his flock out to the edge of the desert, and he came to God’s mountain called Horeb. The Lord’s messenger appeared to him in a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was in flames, but it didn’t burn up.

Then the Lord said, “Don’t come any closer! Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground.” He continued, “I am the God of your father, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I’ve clearly seen my people oppressed in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians in order to take them out of that land and bring them to a good and broad land, a land that’s full of milk and honey, a place where the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites all live. Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Exodus 3:1-2, 5-10 (CEB)

God! My God! It’s you—
    I search for you!
    My whole being thirsts for you!
    My body desires you
        in a dry and tired land,
        no water anywhere.
Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary;
    I’ve seen your power and glory.
My lips praise you
    because your faithful love
    is better than life itself!
So I will bless you as long as I’m alive;
    I will lift up my hands in your name.
 I’m fully satisfied—
as with a rich dinner.
My mouth speaks praise with joy on my lips—
whenever I ponder you on my bed,
whenever I meditate on you
in the middle of the night—
because you’ve been a help to me and I shout for joy in the protection of your wings.
My whole being clings to you;
your strong hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:1-8 (CEB)

A few things we gather from these two scriptures on the theme of prayer:

  1. God comes and speaks to us in mysterious ways.  Often times we may not even realize it was a God moment till after the fact (that’s what I like to refer to as prevenient grace: looking back and seeing it was God all along!).  Moses had an encounter like none-other; God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, a bush set on fire … and this helps us also to know that whenever, wherever, and however God speaks to us, it is a holy, holy, holy moment.  God doesn’t just come to us in the holy spaces we deem to be holy; however, more-often-than-not in the places we would deem unholy by human standards.  Yet, what we see in this scripture is that God called Moses to take off his sandals, because he was now standing on holy ground.  What’s that say?  It says that even dirt, grass, pasture, is holy ground.  It says that even concrete, asphalt, carpet, and any place we are upon this earth is holy ground because, Yes!, God created all and, “saw everything he had made: it was supremely good” (Genesis 1:31, CEB).
  2. These scriptures help us to know that even when we think God is not listening, or hearing our cries and praises, God is always listening.  We do yell at God, or at least I have, “Hello, where are you?!”  And, that is okay, God needs us to cry out … but the next step is knowing that we should not and we cannot forsake God in thinking that God doesn’t care, God does.  God hears all, God hears the cries, the praises, and the needs of God’s people: us- God’s children.  “I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know about their pain. I’ve come down to rescue them from the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:7-8, CEB).
  3. Finally, when we go to God in prayer, we pray with our whole being.  We may look at people strange because they decide to pray or are compelled to pray on their knees, at the altar, bowing up and down on a mat or in a pew, with their eyes open or closed, because of their attire, etc.  Yet, it is through using all that we are and all that we have where we give back to God our whole being in prayer.  We see in scripture, and in the hymns we sing many phrases around prayer and how people pray, one of the most familiar is the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”

    All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
    Let angels prostrate fall;
    bring forth the royal diadem,
    and crown him Lord of all.

    Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
    ye ransomed from the fall,
    hail him who saves you by his grace,
    and crown him Lord of all.

    Sinners, whose love can ne’er forget
    the wormwood and the gall,
    go spread your trophies at his feet,
    and crown him Lord of all.

    Let every kindred, every tribe
    on this terrestrial ball,
    to him all majesty ascribe,
    and crown him Lord of all.

    Crown him, ye martyrs of your God,
    who from his altar call;
    extol the Stem of Jesse’s Rod,
    and crown him Lord of all.

    O that with yonder sacred throng
    we at his feet may fall!
    We’ll join the everlasting song,
    and crown him Lord of all. [2]

May we live into Psalm 63:1-8, as we are living vessels of God’s grace, forever in the presence of God; let’s not forget it, let’s not limit God, let’s not just go to God when we think we need God … rather, may we live our whole lives, as our whole-selves being in prayer at all times.  Wouldn’t that be, in the words of Louis Armstrong, “a wonderful world.”



[2] The United Methodist Hymnal: Book of United Methodist Worship (Nashville, Tennessee: United Methodist Publishing House, ©1989), #154.