Dear friends, today I am going to share with you one of my failures. My friend Shelby has a close friend whose husband is undergoing a medical procedure which is very dangerous, but which may very well save his life. She has asked everyone she knows to pray for him and his family every day for the next three weeks. She has constructed a schedule so that if people commit to pray during specific fifteen-minute time periods, it would be possible for him to be prayed for constantly throughout the most dangerous part of his recovery. Of course I signed up for a time slot in the evening, and when I saw that the schedule was not yet full, also took on a morning time slot. Both are right next to my usual morning and evening prayer times, so should be a piece of cake. So far, so good!
I started last night and quickly discovered that it is one thing to pray through a prayer list, asking God to help each one on the list, picturing each one in turn and praying for each one's needs, and for whatever else God knows they need; however, it is a different thing altogether to keep on praying for fifteen minutes straight for one person. Take it from me, my friends, this is REALLY HARD!
So I started out with naming them, saying what the problem is, then suddenly thinking how do I know this is what God wants for them? What if I am praying for the wrong thing? This is where I had to start getting honest, because I could see that I did not have a prayer of making it through the whole fifteen minutes, let alone helping anyone else. I reminded God that he promised that the Holy Spirit would help us if we didn't know what to pray for or how to do it. YOU SAID! Well, now is the time, because I really need the help right now. All right. Jesus did say that we should pray in his name for people's healing, so I guess this isn't too presumptuous. Okay, now the prayer is all about me instead of the people I'm supposed to be praying for. Great! How do I fix this? I must be the worst pray-er in the world! (I see that you have to keep talking out loud, or else you totally lose focus and forget to pray at all!) OK, Lord, I'm just going to keep on talking, and hope that you can stick this out with me. I'll just keep saying their names, and whatever else occurs to me, trusting that you get it, and will know what to do with this mess. I did, in fact, make it through the whole fifteen minutes, using this "technique."
Next decision: do I set my alarm to be sure I wake up in time for praying in the morning? I probably need the sleep, if I sleep through. Wait a minute. This has all the earmarks of a temptation. I said I would do this, so I will. ("I will, with God's help" is maybe the most helpful phrase in the whole Book of Common Prayer.) I set the alarm. Sure enough, the alarm woke me from a deep sleep, though I usually wake up easily to the dawn chorus. I'm groggy, I make coffee, I look at the clock -- fifteen minutes before starting time. I check my email and see Rohr's meditation for today. Yes, you guessed it! Next time I checked the clock, I had to start the prayer with, "Oh, Dearest Heart, I am already two minutes late!" I knew that the Holy Spirit had started on time and was waiting for me to join in. That is a blessed relief, so I started with naming the people, and thanking God for his faithfulness in filling in for me until I got there. Good thing Rohr said that God teaches us more in our failures than in our successes, because I think God will teach me to pray if I can just keep on spending fifteen minutes with him every morning and night working on this at the same time we are praying for the young man and his wife and family. Oddly enough, at the end of the fifteen minutes this morning I knew I had been brought closer to God. I guess it's like anyone you know -- if you work together on a difficult project, it brings you closer together.
If any of you dear readers have tips on how to do this, please please comment, as obviously I do not have a clue. We Christians need the companionship and support of the Community of the Faithful to help us sustain our efforts along the way of our spiritual journey.