As I write this today it is actually raining. So, you already know the punchline. But I've had these thoughts in my head for a long time, and am just now sitting down to write/type. Most of Texas is in a drought. Some parts are in an extreme/Steinbeck-ian Grapes of Wrath kind of drought. I have even taking to prayer. And for me that's a bit shocking!
I know for lots of you it's not out of the norm at all to pray for rain! Some of you reading this will be disappointed that a nice clergy girl doesn't pray regularly for rain. I struggle with prayer. In my classes I teach that prayer is about relationship. I didn't just make that up. Lots of smart people have talked about prayer and relationship for centuries. I think more recently Richard Roehr has written a lot about prayer in that way. Someone said that we are as good at praying as we are at the other relationships in our lives. I tried to find the source of that quote, but have not been successful. It will probably turn out that it was either in the back of a Cosmo magazine or the topic of some book I was supposed to have read for my D. Min!
The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer defines prayer as "responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with our without words." I love that! And not just because I'm on the ol' payroll. It makes everything prayer....our word prayers, our work on a Habitat for Humanity House, our singing, everything is about prayer, meaning everything is about relationship with God.
That's such a broader, deeper, richer, picture of prayer than simply asking for "stuff" from the Big Santa in the sky. And yet, when I see the parched earth, and I read about farmers going bankrupt because of the drought, and when my power steering went out on I -10 this week (!) I find myself praying the most basic prayer: help me Jesus! Please make it rain or Please don't let me die on I-10.
I suppose all of that, the prayer as relationship, and the help me Jesus get out of this mess prayers aren't mutually exclusive. I just wonder about the rest of those sentences. If it continues not to rain enough or if I had crashed my car on I10 does that mean that God did not answer my prayers? I don't think so. I think it means that I crashed my car on I10 and perhaps should have had that power steering looked at a few months ago when this problem started. I just don't know.
I absolutely believe that God "answers" our prayers...I'm just not always entirely sure what I mean by that. I can't help but draw on my 12 years as the live in manager of the Ronald McDonald House in Austin. In that time we averaged a child's death every 10 days. And there were LOTS of prayers, and I believe God heard every one of those prayers, and sometimes children died and sometimes children made shocking recoveries. And I can only look at that reality and take a deep breath, and, then, well, take another deep breath.
I can't get on board with the notion of a capricious God who "answers" some people's prayers and ignores others. And please don't give me that bumper sticker quote about God always answers our prayers it's just sometimes the answer is no. That's OK when we're talking about some things, but that does not suffice when we're talking about a child's life. Again, The Big Santa giving out stuff to "good" kids is not at all what the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus is about nor is that at all what prayer is about. I think prayer as relationship is part of all the major religions...though I might be wrong.
The anonymous quote I used above is a good one. (I'm really going to laugh if it does come from some goofy source...like a bumper sticker!) It reminds me that prayer, like the relationship I have with my husband and with my dear friends takes time and tending and a-tending. Those relationships involve us showing up in each other's lives and listening and sometimes arguing and sometimes being disappointed and sometimes being angry and sometimes being loving. Those relationships are not based solely on what those people can "do" for me or what I can "do" for them. The relationships are based on our mutual love, respect, and desire to be with each other even in the tough times even in the boring times.
So it's raining this afternoon, and my first thought is still Thank God. And I don't suppose that's a bad thought to have. Anything that makes us say Thank God is valuable. Is God making it rain because "enough" people asked for it? I don't know, I don't think so. I do think God cares about our parched earth and wants us to care about the parched earth. And anything that draws us deeper into relationship with God can be a good thing. But it might not rain again for days or a hurricane might come in 2 weeks and in all of that somewhere there's God eager to have relationship with us. And that eagerness thrills and scares me, and I still don't know what exactly to say about prayer. Thank God! Take care, Rhoda