By Pastor Manda
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
That last sentence is familiar to you. But how many times have you connected it to prayer? The tangible things of this life are all, by design, finite. But prayer – that connection to God herself – is immortal. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, and still, the way that we relate to that God can affect our lives.
I remember the first time someone told me that I should be the first answer to all my own prayers. Before hearing this I had a hard time reconciling the practice of prayer that had been taught to me with the way I understood God. I didn’t believe that God was Santa Claus, or a wish-granting fairy, or a holy judge who could or not grant me clemencies. So if prayer wasn’t a request for mercy or blessings, and it wasn’t a time to list grievances, what was it for?
When my mentor told me that I should be the first answer to my own prayers they introduced me to the idea that prayer can shape my thinking. By opening a conversation with God about the things that were on my mind and on my heart, they would be opened. I had to remember what God said about similar things in scripture, what I had learned from my community of faith, what others who had gone before me had hypothesized. This internal dialogue could open me up to considerations that were difficult to hear, shameful to admit, or too complex to understand.
That practice sometimes led me to hearing God speak in the voice of my mother. Sometimes it made me hear God in the voice of poets, historical figures, friends, or enemies. Each time, because I was searching for the voice of God, I had to carefully consider if these people had been speaking the Word. Sometimes I had to decide if I was choosing to make God how I wanted to see them, or if I was allowing God to be something other than I desired.
All of this was discernment: figuring out, wrestling with, wondering. Which, it turns out, is exactly what prayer is.
A life of faith isn’t alive unless we’re taking part in it. We could barrel ahead with what we think is right but knowing our identity as people of God means stopping long enough to ask and discern what God’s will might be. I can think of at least 10 things happening in our community of faith that require prayer. What else is happening in your life that could use some prayerful discernment?
Christ the Good Shepherd
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