Dear Sisters and Brothers,
In our time of self-quarantine and “social distancing” communication is more important than ever. We find ourselves reaching out to others with texts, cards and letters, emails, and phone calls. I haven’t received any messages by telegraph, smoke signal, semaphore, or telegram, but a few messages for me have just shown up in the church office. We are reaching out to each other to offer and receive support, but we don’t always have much to report.
I think that it is important to reach out even if we don’t have much to say. Even a few words traded back and forth can be comforting. People call or write or send simple messages. But even if all you do is saying “hi” or sharing an old memory… or a funny video online, the message is the call itself. A text, an email, a card, a call… can carry specific meanings, but they also carry the unspoken message of a handshake, hug, or pat on the back.
One of the things that keep some people away from prayer is that they do not know the words to use. Think about that. I could understand that if you were phoning somebody at a complaints desk, but, again, a prayer to God is like a grandchild calling a loving grandparent. The mere fact of the call is like a hug. The words don’t matter as much as the reaching out in love.
In a recent letter to you all, I quoted a larger section of Matthew 6, but today I just want to quote verse seven. It is Jesus talking about prayer: “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases, as the Gentiles do; for they think they will be heard for their many words.”
There are huge advantage to short informal prayers over long formal prayers. A brief prayer can be said even when you are distracted by pain or anxiety. A short prayer can be said when you just want God to hold your hand for a second. A short prayer can be said anywhere.
Many people have written and shared short prayers, like the ones that follow:
“Father, I am tempted to worry about so many things. Our world is a mess! Forgive me for focusing on anything or anyone but You. Thank you for the Bible that equips and empowers me to live each day. Right now, I declare that You are my only Hope. Please help me remember that You really are in control. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” – Mary Southerland
“Lord, help me not to lean on my own understanding but in everything acknowledge You so that You can direct my words, thoughts and actions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” – Sharon Glasgow
“Lord, you are closer to me than my own breath, nearer to me than my hands and feet. Amen.” – Teresa of Avila
So how short can real prayers be?
There are all sorts of three word prayers that are fine if they are said sincerely to God. “God, help me” is a prayer. “Give me strength” can be a prayer, too. You can say, “Help me, Lord” or “God Bless _______”
A Christian teacher from 14th century Germany (Meister Eckhart) once said, “If the only prayer you said was “thank you” it would be enough.”
There are also prayers that have no words. If you feel something deeply, I’m sure “Amen” would be enough of a prayer (remembering that Amen means “Let it be” or “So be it.”
I just want to encourage you to call out to God as often as it helps you feel his presence. It is not about heaping up words and sounding majestic. The message can be as simple as a hug.
Blessings, Pastor Rick