Sunday, May 14, 2006

What do you say after you say, "God is with you in your trouble?"

I was reminded as I sat in meeting for worship this morning of an opening I had a while back in regard to prayer.

I used to pray, as I have so often heard others pray, in regard to someone who is having some kind of difficulty, that God "be with them," or that God "guide them." One day, as I said such words, it was revealed to me that God is already with everyone and is already guiding everyone. No need for me to pray that.

That means that my prayer, I realized, should be that the person know or appreciate or pay attention to the fact that God is with them, or that they should hear and heed the guidance that God is giving them.

That made me think that prayer is the wrong vehicle for making that happen. If I want someone to know or appreciate or pay attention to God and God's guidance then I should really go and tell the person that, directly. God is already doing God's part in this particular endeavor, it's the person involved to whom I should be directing my exhortation.

That's difficult. I am not so comfortable going and saying stuff like that to all of the people I regularly include in my prayer life. I know that some of them would uncomfortable having me say such things to them and that, best case, some would ask me what I mean by that--how they should do what I am asking of them.

How does one explain to one who needs to ask that question how to know or appreciate or pay attention to God and God's guidance? It's a prime opportunity but what words can one use to reach such a person against which he or she has not erected barriers, that will not seem banal or trite to their fleshy ears? Advice to read the Bible, or to pray, or to just close one's eyes and worship in silence ("what does worship mean?") does not seem adequate given all the baggage with which such language comes to many people. It seems to me that most people are well defended against the evangelical lingo to which many of us respond, the lingua franca that we find meaningful because of our convincement and the process by which our aspiration to perfection is being realized in us.

Maybe it's enough to just say to someone who is not used to such language "Know that God is with you in this," or "Listen for God's promptings in your time of trouble." I suppose it's a start. If they want to know more then it's really an for which I should be prepared if I'm really going to do it.

Maybe, though, given the difficulty for me to do this effectively, this really is something for which I should just pray, asking God to push up the amplitude on the motions toward such people as God has put into my life (or drawn with me into God's life). Why should this person be dependent upon my helping them understand that the best thing they can do is to go God's way, in this trouble they face. In fact, my inept attempts may work to push them the other way. Surely God is better at getting through people's barriers, dissolving their shells, than I am.

On the other hand, maybe it's the ability to do this effectively for which I should be praying. Maybe I should be praying for the courage to try it more often than I do, to say such things to people with whom it feels less safe to me.

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