Monday, May 7, 2012

Prayer: When and how

Matthew 6:5-6 (NIV)

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
I’ve long been aware of this particular teaching from Matthew, and I considered it when I felt I was being called to start this writing project. But since the idea for the blog did not come from me — as near as I could tell — I decided to forge ahead.

The verse smacked me in the forehead last week. Thursday was the National Day of Prayer, and as is the case with everything these days, it gained traction in the world of social media. That, naturally, bred a little pushback, including one tweet I saw that said simply “Matthew 6:6, guys, for real, seriously.”

Clearly the message was aimed at people praying in public that day, generally at a park or on a courthouse lawn — visibility is the key for such exercises. But for about two weeks now I’ve been writing little prayers and posting them on the Internet, so I’m not sure I’m immune to this kind of reaction.

To be fair, this is more of a “read a Bible verse and apply it to parenting, sometimes stretching quite a bit to get there, then add a prayer at the end” exercise than a straight prayer blog. But still, I’m a bit worried about getting too showy or something like that. As a writer, I crave feedback, because it’s the only way to know if the words are actually making people think. I haven’t been able to subjugate that part of my personality.

Still, I’m going to keep writing. I felt called to begin, and I keep finding myself exploring issues I had not yet considered or challenging my long-held perceptions, which probably is healthy for my psyche and my faith. I’m putting the posts online, sharing on Facebook and Twitter (and occasionally Google+, which is not exactly standing on the street corner to be seen by others) and leaving it at that. I hope it sparks some conversation, or at least thought, but essentially I’m doing this to challenge myself as a writer, a Christian and a parent.

My views on public prayer — more specifically how I behave in group prayer settings within the context of a church or church-related group — have evolved over several years, and I’m still not quite comfortable with how I handle such situations as they arise. Hopefully this project will help me work through some of those issues as well.

A prayer for May 7:

Lord, thank you for listening when we pray. Thank you for our communities of faith and the ritual of common prayer, and thank you for this scriptural reminder of the value of prayer as a personal exercise. Please bear with me as I work to define the role of prayer in my life, and help me also to teach my children to pray as they are willing and able. I want to set a good example, but more so I want them to pray because they know and understand what it means to be in communication with you. Help me help them. Amen.

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