(notes for this Sunday's Contemplative Service)
Two weeks ago in the Contemplative Service we handed out cards with names on them. The names were drawn randomly from various sources, all the names were real people from around the world. We were encouraged to pray for these people. We did not know them, did not know how to pray for them, and would not ever know how our prayers were answered.
Why did we do this? So many of us pray our own agendas when we pray. We tell God exactly what He should do and how He should do it. This exercise removed that possibility. All I could do was hold my two people out to God and pray that He would be with them in some way.
So Tom and Tam became my companions for a while, and I learned about openness and mystery in prayer. I surrendered my agendas and even allowed the way I pray for them to change how I pray for myself.
That same week my friend's five year old son Arthur had open heart surgery.
I tried to pray in the same way, to be open to the mystery of prayer and pray without expectations and agendas....and I couldn't do it. I got angry with the whole exercise. I told God in no uncertain terms exactly how I wanted Him to be with Arthur and how I wanted Him to make sure that Arthur's surgery was a success. Anything else felt like lying, I couldn't, wouldn't surrender the outcome of the surgery to God.
Arthur came through the surgery wonderfully well and is already back home.
I'm so grateful to God for that.....and I still find myself getting angry even imagining any other outcome.
I'm still wrestling with this issue of authenticity and openness.
How do I pray honestly for what I feel and still be open to the mystery of God and not become attached to the outcome? How do I pray in a way that feels honest about who I am and what I want, and acknowledges that ultimately I have to hold things loosely?
I've heard talks on the benefits of praying specifically. How articulating what you want to God helps you process and reflect on it. Be authentic to God, He knows when you are not anyway.
I've heard talks on the benefits of praying generally. How you should simply surrender the other person to God and be open to God doing whatever God wants.
In the midst of all this advice and suggestions, I find comfort from Jesus in the Garden.
"....Let this cup pass me by" is specific and authentic
"...not my will but yours be done" is a prayer of openness and surrender.
So this week I've tried to hold onto the tension of Openness and Authenticity. To ask God to help me find the place where they intersect, and when I get angry at the thought of what could have happened to Arthur, I try and place my anger in God's hands as well.