Saturday, February 23, 2013
Lent and longing
As I listened to and later reflected on our conversation, I heard the collective sounds of people longing for a day ... a day when we will know what the future holds, a day when we will heal from disappointment and disillusionment, a day when we will have balance again and a rhythm to our routines. There were no easy answers or simple solutions, but in there place were nods, "I know what you mean"s and questions.
As our discussion turned toward the practice of prayer, one question surfaced that has lingered on my mind throughout the week. The question sounded something like this:
What does prayer look like when our unfulfilled longing looms like an elephant in the room?
(Ironically, this was the topic of a recent post) A few brief words were offered in response, but otherwise we moved on. I wish we had stayed with this question, because it is such a powerful one.
For most of my life, I thought of prayer as a prescriptive process.
You need something? Pray for it.
You are sad? Pray for comfort.
You know someone who is sick? Pray for healing.
Even though I learned along the way that prayer often changes us more than our circumstances, little was ever said about the changing shape of the prayers themselves. Wouldn't the prayers of unfulfilled longing sound quite different than those asking for comfort and healing? Wouldn't prayer in seasons of doubt and despair sound different than prayer in times of growth and gratitude?
Just like we did in our conversation, we want to move on too quickly without voicing any of the whys, hows and what nows that express the weight of our longing. As uncomfortable as it may seem, being willing to allow prayer to be space for honest questions, sincere doubts and unresolved tensions may be the only way to pray as we journey through our longings.
I pray Lent is a rich time of exploring and expressing our deepest longings as we look to One who knows and understands each one.