Episcopal Diocese of Easton
Prayer Centered Church + Mission–Shaped Diocese
The 149th Annual Diocesan Convention has adopted the recommendation from the Bishop’s Convention Address to be characterized as ‘A Prayer Centered Church and Mission-Shaped Diocese’. It has committed to re-emerge as a vibrant diocese determined to live into God’s will for the Church founded in Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. The bishop is offering a series on the power, form and life-giving comfort of prayer, a selfless discipline that the Church has practiced throughout history.
What is Prayer?
You would be surprised how many people I have met in my faith journey that have asked the question, what is prayer? To the faithful Christian this may come across as a surprise, but to the person whose life may bear no connection or interaction with this discipline the reality is different.
However, wherever you may be in your practice of prayer a period of re-examination could serve as a reminder as to why so many spend so much precious time with it. There is a hunger in many people for an intimate and deep relationship with God. Likewise, there is also confusion and a lack of information about how a spiritual pilgrimage could begin and be sustained. In some ways modern Christianity has neglected to place greater emphasis on the deeper ways of prayer as the saints of ancient times have done, and as a result, many people have felt that in order to really understand prayer, they must look outside of the Christian Church to other faith traditions. This is my personal assessment which may be deferred for a later discussion.
In Christian faith practice, prayer is essentially an encounter, a meeting between a soul and God. It is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God: Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. The word ‘religion’ means a tie or bond or relationship. Religion is a bond and tie through which people attempt to establish a relationship with God. It is obvious that it will be somewhat difficult to sustain a relationship unless there is a way of communicating or talking with the other person or persons. Many of us communicate with others through various media platforms including signs and speech. Our fundamental platform to communicate with God is through PRAYER or PETITION. The person who prays is always the ‘prayer’. Prayer is simply a reverential, intentional or holy conversation with God.
Prayer is not a kind of pious chatter but a realizing of ourselves and God in right relation. One of the most misleading ideas is that prayer is a sort of bombardment of God. We want certain things for ourselves or for others and so we bombard or ‘storm’ God with requests for what we want and that’s all well and healthy. However, when the result doesn’t line up with our prayer request we must not be disillusioned. A faithful ‘prayer’ should concede that God’s will far outweighs our way.
Too many people regard prayer as a formalized routine of words, a refuge for the weak and vulnerable or a childish petition for material things. We sadly undervalue prayer when we conceive it in these terms. No one is nearer to God than the person who has a hunger – a need or want irrespective of how small or insignificant. Equally, no one is excluded from God’s presence, God’s heart and God’s listening ear. God is partial to all for each is God’s child, loved and cherished by “Our Father in heaven”, words Jesus used in the prayer he taught his disciples.
In Jesus, all are welcome by grace into God’s bosom. It is in prayer that we have an intimate friend in Jesus our Lord and Savior. If you haven’t tried prayer before it is not too late. Jesus loves you!!