From Shady Grove UMC – Glen Allen’s 2015 Lenten devotional, What’s Your Story?, April 2, 2015
“Yahweh’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it.”(Psalm 145, Eugene Peterson’s The Message)
I entered graduate school at VCU in 1983 with a small, diverse group of students. We were all sure we could rid the world of injustice and hurt as professional social workers. Eight of us had the same classes together that first term, spending 6 hours a day, 2 days a week together. The other three days of the work week, we completed internships in state offices around Capital Square and met for lunch each Friday.
Bill stood out in our group. A Vietnam veteran serving other vets, he was a true free spirit: long blond hair, 1960’s style clothing, and alternative world views. I admired Bill for his lack of conformity and his spirituality. During one of our lunches, someone asked for prayer for a family member. I clearly remember Bill’s response. While others offered their prayer support, Bill said he would “continually emit positive thoughts” for the person. Maybe Bill’s words have stuck with me because his understanding of prayer seemed so very different from mine. It wasn’t what I learned from family and church. But if you think about it, doesn’t Bill’s description define what prayer truly is?
In 1742, John Wesley published a pamphlet titled “The Character of a Methodist” which listed qualities of the Methodist life. One reads: “Methodists pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Even when they are not in a church or on their knees in private prayer, they continually walk with God (1 John 1:7); and their hearts are ‘ever lifted up to God, at all times, and in all places.’”
My prayer life is a continual walk with God. Sometimes that constant communication comes with closed eyes and head bowed. Most of the time it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s done corporately in a beautiful place of worship. Other times, it’s in the sacred space right where I am at that moment. My prayer is in each song I sing and each step I take. How we pray, where we pray, and why we pray are very personal, reflecting our individual understanding of who and what God is. Despite our differences, prayer connects us to God and to one another. This Lenten season and always, may our lives be rooted in prayer for one another, for our church, and for our world.
On left, Bill at a Christmas gathering, 1983. On right, me in my “Class to Be 1983” sweatshirt.