Better With Prayer

The spiritual life offers copious instructions on prayer.  We’re told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16), to give thanks as we pray (John 11:42), to ask and we shall receive (Matthew 7:7), and to trust because God already knows what we want (Luke 12).

Yet, sometimes we believe that we’re too busy to pray, or that if God already knows what we need, there’s no reason to bother.  Sometimes we don’t believe in the prayer process, or worse, we don’t believe that we truly deserve our heart’s desires.  And sometimes, when life is swirling around us or a circumstance appears dire, we may doubt that God remembers us.  We think that God needs reminding, not only of what we want, but also that we’re here.

This is exactly when we need the reminder: Prayer does not change God.  Prayer changes us.  Prayer reminds us:

  • We are God’s beloved creations.
  • God’s unconditional love and infinite compassion continually enfold us.
  • God’s ever-abiding grace is always available, the moment we choose to align with life.
  • Wherever two or more are gathered (Matthew 18:20), we share in feeling God’s presence both with us and within us.

I experienced all this earlier in the summer during a doctor visit to determine the cause of a persistent cough (later diagnosed as a bronchial infection).  The nurse who assisted me had the gentle, warm demeanor of one who’s offered loving service for many years.  As she gathered all the necessary information, the conversation turned to my work.  And, as sometimes happens when I say what I do, she expressed awe about my calling, as if I am somehow closer to God than she is.

As the appointment ended, she tensed, staring at the ground.  Then she looked up and asked, “Would you pray for my mother and me?  She’s been ill, and I need to move her to assisted living.”

I said I would.  Then I asked, “Would you like to pray together right now?”

She exhaled a deep, “Yes,” her shoulders slumping toward me as I took her hands in mine.  Then we prayed, as I spoke words of assurance for her mother’s healing and ease in the moving process, as well as for their peace of mind.

When we concluded, she thanked me and squeezed my hands.

I reminded her of God’s love and said, “I hope the prayer helps you feel better.”

She hugged me quickly and brushed away a tear.  “It does,” she smiled. “You feel better, too.”

And, despite the cough, I did feel better.  Even more, I felt grateful for another moment of divine connection, remembering that anytime, anywhere, we can feel and behold God in everyone and in everything.  Then, we can choose our next best steps as the journey continues.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Present in Prayer

The man called Apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17) tells us to “pray without ceasing.”   As a pastor, I wish always I did this to the letter, but I admit that I do not.  Occasionally, I forget to pray.  Nevertheless, I have what I call “pastoral radar,” and at particular moments, I know, the only thing to do is pray.

Such was the case this past week, in an unlikely setting, while I waited at the opticians to order new contact lenses.  I was talking to the optician about being able to see the whole sanctuary when another woman, also awaiting assistance said, “Did you say you’re a pastor?”

I turned from my chair to see before me a woman with vibrant dark eyes, lush curls, and rich chocolate skin.  She wore a bright, neatly pressed cornflower blue print, and her voice exuded a kind of love and gentleness which reminded me of my grandmother.

“Yes, I am,” I said.

“Oh, please” she said, stepping closer.  “Would you pray for me?”  Then, as if releasing a great weight, she began telling me about her struggle with cancer (which wasn’t at all evident to me by her outer appearance), as well as with her faith.  She wanted me to ask God to bless her.

Forgetting in the moment where I was or who was around us, I said, “Would you like me to pray with you right now?”

Her vibrant eyes widened.  “Would you?” she asked.

“Of course,” I said.

I took both her hands in mine and began to pray, praising God, blessing her and her magnificent body temple, affirming God’s ever-abiding grace, infinite compassion and unconditional love for her.  As I prayed, she whispered along, several times saying, “Yes, Jesus.”  Perhaps the prayer lasted a minute, maybe two.  I don’t remember every word I said; I rarely do in such divine moments.

When I concluded with thanksgiving, I saw tears in her eyes.  She squeezed my hands tightly and as I looked at them fully, continuing to hold them in mine, I felt tremendous warmth flowing between us.  Two strangers, connecting through the intimacy of prayer.  In an unlikely place.  In a powerful way.

I don’t know much else about this woman, except that she and her mother had been visiting that office for many years, and that her mother also had survived cancer.  I don’t know where she lived or which church she attended or anything about her personal feelings and beliefs.  None of which matters.  Because, in that moment, we were one with God, connected, each of us transformed in beholding the Presence of God in one another.

It’s especially in those moments that I know: Prayer doesn’t change God.  Prayer changes us, opening us to see, hear, feel and know God’s Beauty and Presence everywhere, in every one.

Pray, Blessed Reader, wherever you may be.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

After Thoughts and Prayers

On Sunday morning, June 12th, I prepared to give a sermon I titled, ironically, “Put Feet on Your Prayers.”  I was nearly out the door when I heard the news that a group of people dancing the night away in Orlando, Florida, practically my backyard, were held hostage and gunned down.

As the congregation sang the opening song and I stepped into the pulpit to speak the opening prayer, I began as always by saying, “Namaste.  The Spirit in me welcomes, honors, embraces and rejoices in the Spirit in you.”  As always, I looked at the congregation, so many beautiful, vibrant faces before me.  Men and women of all shapes, sizes, persuasions, personalities.  Each one a divine child of God.

As news unfolded and we continued to pray for our Orlando brothers and sisters, one congregant asked whether we were going to “do something.”  Another was furious that this had “happened again.”  Later, a friend requested an encouraging word.  Another expressed sadness and wanted comfort.  Still another expressed shock and dismay.  We prayed, but it wasn’t enough.  We wanted to “feel better,” whatever that means.

Still later, I reflected on my sermon: That after we pray, we need to move our feet, get off the couch and go out into the world.  Because it’s true: Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough.  After we pray, we also can act, remembering that God is where we are.

After we pray — and as we pray — we remember: Our prayers don’t change God or current events; our prayers change us.  So we can transform ourselves — and our corner of the world.  So we remember the presence of God, both with and within all of us, no matter where we live, how we look, what we believe, or who we love.  Then, with that recognition, we can choose to act courageously, centered in faith and trust, and do what is ours to do.

After we pray for those in Orlando, and remember those in San Bernardino, Calif.; Newtown, Conn.; and Aurora, Colorado, among many other places, we can put feet on our prayers by:

  • Writing and/or calling all our city, state and federal legislators continually to express our outrage, opinions, hopes and beliefs, as well as working to change current legislation.
  • Registering to vote for the candidate of our choice and working to support that candidate. Then helping someone else register and agree to take them to the polls on Election Day.
  • Boycotting businesses and establishments which condemn and refuse to recognize the humanity and divinity in all people, including those who choose to live differently than we do.
  • Supporting, with our money, talents and time, the key local agencies within our cities and towns which advocate for the unheard, clothe the naked, educate the unlearned, feed the hungry, heal the sick, nurture the abused, remember the forgotten, and shelter the homeless.

After thoughts and prayers, we act, transforming ourselves, then transforming our world.

Namaste, Blessed Readers.