General CBF

Praying with oomph

By Laura Stephens-Reed 

During Lent, extra emphasis is put on those disciplines that – ideally – are part of our daily lives. Unfortunately, routine can lead to rote, and so we often have a good bit of spiritual overhaul to do by the start of these 40 days. Even prayer, a staple of the Christian’s soul-diet, can become a monologue in a monotone.

That’s why a verse like Hebrews 5:7 shakes me awake to how dry my prayers sometimes are: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears…” I – an INTJ according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and an Enneagram 5 – make lists in my head: confessions, things to be thankful for, petitions on behalf of people in my small circle. And then there’s Jesus with his wet, even soaking, prayers. His body is wracked with sobs, he lies prone, he offers up whatever comes into his heart.

Maybe Jesus laments his own scars from wounds to body and pride. But I bet that Jesus is also rent over our broken relationships and the difficulty of being godly in such a world as this. He knows intimately how much God wants to be close to us. He’s experienced the distractions and trials that make our efforts at worship fall flat. His empathy for God and for us, his longing for God’s embrace of a redeemed humankind to be complete, is overwhelming.

Lent is not all about being somber. After all, on Palm Sunday we will throw down leaves and shout hosannas. But it is about making room in our hearts for God and others, and not just those we consider friends and family. That’s why Jesus prays with such oomph that his words alone can’t express the fullness of his heart. He sees all of our wars of word and weapon, our withdrawal into divided camps, our estrangement from loved ones. If we would be like Christ, we would unclench our hearts and finely tune, with the Spirit’s help, sensitivity to the world’s hurts and God’s graces. Our prayers would drench the ground too, and made fertile by our petitions, the soil would bear the fruit of love that tells the coming of God’s reign.

Hear my prayer, O God: I think I want self-control, but it is too safe, too lonely, too dry.  Replace it with passion, with outrageous love, with sobs at the world’s pangs and joys. Open my heart to others so that it can be open to you.

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