Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

(Shameless plug for my blogfriend Jane Redmont's book as well as her blog)
Almighty God, to whom our needs are known before we ask: Help us to ask only what accords with your will; and those good things which we dare not, or in our blindness cannot ask, grant us for the save of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

--Concluding collect for the Prayers of the People, p.394, Book of Common Prayer

Many of you know that one of the "holy habits" I have taken on in the past few years is regular reading of the Daily Office and intentional time for daily prayer. This intentional habit started about four years ago, and I got to thinking the other day about something I still struggle with to some degree--and probably always will. It's one of those "always impossible questions"...

"If God knows all our needs already, why do we ask?"

Well, here's my radical (and in some circles, heretical) proposal...

It's not about our personal relationships with God.

It's about learning to hear what we are asking and to consider if and how we are to part of the answer that God provides for others.

It's about learning to re-consider our own motives in what we are asking and re-configuring where we are in these things.

My radical proposal is that God is caring at us for this very moment, providing for our needs as he sees fit, right now, and would do so whether we asked or not. Not just us. Everyone.

But let's look what happens in a hypothetical situation over time.

I'm thinking about a situation that I prayed about over a long period of time involving our family--my cousin's custody battle for two of his children.

In the beginning I prayed we all had enough fortitude and resources to carry it through.

As time went on, I prayed about everything from the safety to his children to the stability of his present marriage to my ability not to blow a gasket, and a whole host of other things.

Right before each court date, I prayed that all involved always acted what was in the best interest of the kids, and that we had the grace to accept each decision along the way no matter how we personally felt about it. Some of my prayers were of desperation--"Lord, I have no clue what to do."

Right after this came to a "happy ending" from our point of view, I prayed we would not all screw it up.

I continue to pray daily for those children, my cousin, and his wife--that they grow and mature as a family, that the kids grow up to know and love God in whatever way they are to learn it.

These prayers were often punctuated with my own opinions--"Lord, you know what I think ought to be done here. But I know that might not be what happens."

In each of those prayers came realizations for me--when to jump in, when to back off, when to write another check, and when to let them do some of this on their own. My actions (and non-actions) emerged from the consequences of those prayers. The reactions of others often were from what was "mirrored" in those prayers as they emerged through me. It made me realize these prayers had the power for all of us to change and grow in this long ordeal.

This is much more complex than prayer to God the Cosmic Coke Machine, who delivers Cokes on demand.

Now let's consider the ripple effect.

I let a few people in on what was going on, such as some friends at church and my clergy. It was a messy and dicey and, frankly, ugly enough situation that I really did not want the whole church to know. But I knew every Sunday, that someone else was praying along with me, even if they did not know the details. On the weeks that I would hear the concluding collect at the top of this post, I knew that whatever else, God knew. That God could handle what not all know or what we could dare not ask.

(Note to clergy: That's my argument for "Why you should mix up the choices some when you have choices in the BCP, rather than just the first one, or the one you personally like the best." Many of your flock actually DO read the prayer book in their free time, and they become attached to certain words. Hearing you say them has value, in that way the words of the shaman simply "feel" more powerful. Personally, I get something out of hearing you say the words I love.)

(Note to people who feel offended when clergy mix up the choices: I know when I am standing in church during the Prayers of the People, I look around at all of you and I don't know what words matter to you. I pray the right words are given to you in the way you need to hear them, same as me. We don't all key up on the same words, and in that sense, I think ultimately it is fair to let folks get their turn.)

But back to that ripple effect. By knowing there were a few people "in the know" in our situation, I was reminded that others in the church that day might also have something going on that I am not "in the know" and I need to pray for those things too. That knowledge makes me treat people a little fairer, a little kinder, and sometimes even on days I'm not feeling particularly fair or kind.

Maybe, ultimately, THAT is what prayer is all about. Maybe it's not about us at all (although a great side effect is over time, we do begin to feel more in relationship with God) but it IS about "us all." That perhaps, prayer is ultimately a vehicle for us to have a reason to be connected to each other in a more Christ-like way. A radical thought, indeed!



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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