Aug 14, 2016 by Norris Burkes
Excerpt from Norris’ upcoming book, “Surviving Beyond Thriving.”
Two weeks ago, I began a series to highlight four essential elements of faith: worship, gratitude, prayer and afterlife. This week, we examine the simplest of the four – prayer.
Prayer is such a simple concept that Jesus scolded those who sought to make it complicated. Eugene H. Peterson paraphrased Jesus’ dressing-down best in his idiomatic interpretation of the Bible called “The Message”:
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense.”
Mindful of that advice, I pose this humble definition: prayer is talking to God in the same manor one talks to a trusted friend. The other side of the prayer coin is meditation. Meditation is listening to God in the manner that we would heed a trusted friend.
Finding a place to talk and listen to a trusted friend can be the hardest part. That’s why Jesus encouraged his followers to find “a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace” (Peterson, The Message).
I find that quiet place near water. Fortunately, I’ve lived my entire life within a few hours of the sandy coastal communities of Florida, California, Texas and Turkey.
Not long ago, I found myself in need of some serious prayer and meditation time. It was one of those weeks when the inconsistencies of my faith became apparent to more than just me. It was one of those weeks when I was longing for stability, just to be the same person I’d been the previous week.
So I drove to the beach, and after parking my car, I laid out my ground rules for God.
“God, I just need a moment to double check some stuff with you – a moment to make sure you’re still covering my back. I know that you make every day special, but I need this day to be extra special.”
I walked to the water’s edge and found an isolated rock that I quickly climbed. I sat atop the rock with my soul exposed and began searching the waves for some kind of epiphany. As I searched, the cold wind seemed to pound my heart like a burglar’s hammer hoping to unlock a treasure.
On that rock, I found a still place, a place where I was both hidden and exposed, a place where I could see and be seen – a place high enough to make my prayer heard but low enough to nurture humility.
My prayer began:
Lord, find what I’ve hidden
Touch what I’ve hurt
Open what I’ve closed
Teach me what I refuse to learn
Refill the places I’ve emptied
And empty what consumes me.
Release what I’ve captured
Hold what escapes me
Invade what I defend
And defend what I’ve surrounded.
My prayer was a simple confessional prayer. I didn’t need a seminary education to voice it. I didn’t need to be sinless to talk to God. There was nothing extravagant in my prayer but for the sound of crashing waves. Only God and me.
I opened my eyes to see the Pacific Ocean swallowing the sun … God had kept his promise to show up. More importantly, prayer had provided me with a new resilience to keep mine.
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