“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12: 1-2)
It is an intimidating thing sometimes; to pray. What should I say? What if the words come out all wrong? What if someone else hears me? What if they think me shallow and foolish?
The image of an old radio comes to mind. Turn the dial, the red bar moves across the frequency spectrum. Ah- hah, the station I want, there it is, sweet music, my heart skips at the sound of it, moment of pure sound; fleeting and it is gone. Too many stations too close together on the dial. Too many sounds, words, chords, all trying to get through at the same time, they all crash together into static’s hum.
The hardest part of prayer for me isn’t having enough to say; it’s having too much to say. Too many words, not enough silence. Too many thoughts, not enough stillness. Too much speaking, not enough listening. Too much of me, too little room for God. Prayer; frail human effort at communion with divine perfection.
And then there it is. Just as my thoughts and feelings and hopes and intercessions and supplications and offerings and thanksgivings and praises and (….the list goes on and on), all seek to pour out and be heard at once, a hand, not my own, centers my soul exactly where it is meant to be, and suddenly, surprisingly, moment of perfect oneness; fleeting and it is gone.
Jesus knew what it was to pray alone; in the wilderness, on the hillside, in the garden. He knew what it was to say words and then confess what was truly in his heart for God; “Father, … take this cup from me, but thy will, not mine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) The co-mingling of self and God in the deepest recesses of the soul.
Paul writes, “Jesus [is] the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” Hallelujah! When I pray I do not pray alone. Christ prays with me, and for me, and through me, and by the power of the Holy Spirit he prays unceasingly even when I cannot begin. My words, inadequate, ineloquent, paltry, but in Christ they are gathered up, given life, touched by grace, and become beautiful music to God’s ears.
We do not pray alone, ever. For unseen (by human eyes), but all around us even still, stands a great cloud of witnesses praying with us, and first among them Jesus, who hears our every prayer; those expressed in whispered words, in tears, in silence, and in the vast pool that is the soul, who gathers up the scattered bits of self we lay before the throne and offers them, divine perfection, a holy offering to the Lord.
Prayer: “Lord hear my prayer…. (silence)”