Thursday, October 14, 2010

A REALLY Long Prayer

Our lectionary texts this week are Psalm 119:97-104, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, and Luke 18:1-8. It's likely that none of these are super familiar be sure to read them for yourself by clicking here.

Prayer is the topic that has been on my mind this week more than usual. In part this has been brought on by watching, along with the world, the amazing rescue of the Chilean miners unfolding the past two days. As they emerged from the underground cavern where they had been trapped for the past 69 days, the first thing several of the miners did was drop to their knees in prayer. The return of the men to safety at the surface also set off a variety of religious commentaries about the power of prayer and the role it played in the rescue--a particularly interesting article reflecting on this was published here.

Prayer has also been on my mind because we are going to spend the next three weeks in worship talking about prayer together--about who we're praying to, what we're praying for, where we're praying from--asking hard questions about prayer and looking to scripture for sometimes hard guidance on this journey of being in relationship and dialogue with God. Our conversation is going to be guided by two of the most powerful resources we have for thinking about prayer--Jesus' own teaching, and the Psalms, which have long been called "the prayer book of the Bible."

Our first Psalm is a doozy--at 176 verses, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible by a landslide. It goes on for pages. It's full of big, crazy words and ideas--the ones contained in the jumble of an image above. So you can imagine my chagrin when everything I read about the section of the Psalm we're looking at on Sunday--verses 97 to 104--said that to really get this Psalm, you need to read the whole thing. Not just that, but you need to pray the whole thing, internalizing its words as your own.

176 verses? Really?

But I did it. I read the whole thing, jotting down notes of my reactions and observations along the way. It was interesting to watch myself evolve as the prayer moved. For the first 20 verses or so, I felt annoyed at whoever penned this prayer; it is so redundant. Couldn't he have said all of this in 30 verses or so?

But as I continued to read, continued to pray, I found myself getting caught up in the surging current of this prayer, awash in its sometimes grandiose poetry. I found myself riding the ups and downs of the roller coaster the pray-er was on, soaring with unpredictable speed from begging to proclaiming to almost laughing outloud with delight to pleading to declaring with utter confidence. I found myself amazed at how this pray-er, no matter his or her emotion at the time, prayed with this utter, almost ridiculous boldness and confidence. I felt at times like I was eavesdropping on a conversation so intimate it should not be overheard even in snippets, let alone word to word by someone else.

But most of all...I found myself desperately wanting to know a God that you could talk to like this. I found myself yearning to know the psalmist's God, and to know that God in such fullness, with such depth and intimacy and realness and authenticity. I found myself wishing I could pour out 176 verses that reflected such knowledge and experience of God, that painted such a beautiful picture of who God is.

So as we prepare for Sunday...take this challenge. Read Psalm 119. The whole thing. Let its long, crazy stream of words wash over you. Pay attention to how they affect you. And think about the kind of God that they point this the God you pray to? And what would it look like for you to pray to such a God with your whole heart?

Join us on Sunday morning and we can compare notes:)

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Point 1: Wordels are great fun and can sometimes (like you do here) point out some possible trends/topics. +1 Abby

Point 2: Give the reader the whole prayer to read on Sunday. (I's not me, so I can say that.)

Point 3: I'll take this challenge tomorrow morning. Great idea, Abby!

Miss you all! See you in a week or so!