Pre-script: Dear readers, many of my posts reflect what kind of person I want to be or how I want to feel and think, not who I really am. It fact one of the reasons I write is to help me define who I should be, not, unfortunately, who I am. So, it this particular post comes across to you a bit lofty and high-minded then take what I just wrote into consideration. At my best I’m only what Paul said, “not that I have taken hold of it yet…but,…I strain forward toward what is ahead.” (Philippians 3:13)
I just moved from Alaska to urban Buffalo, NY. I loved Alaska with its beauty, natural diversity. I particularly loved the people of Juneau, my friends, my church. As sad as it was to move it was still the right move. I’m grateful. Urban Buffalo has its own beauty. I want to write about that in my next post.
However, leaving Juneau meant leaving my practice as a professional mental health counselor. I boxed up my files and closed the office. I said goodbye to an identity, a life-purpose that I had pursued for 17 years. In the run up to the move I felt diminished. I selfishly and myopically felt I had lost my purpose.
I’m looking for a re-purposed driven life (to misuse the title of the Rick Warren mega-seller).
I’m going to pray; or I’m going to try to pray.
I don’t mean “pray” to find purpose, I mean pray as a way of performing purpose. Some doing may ensue- maybe even a lot doing but I am hoping I learn a lesson: don’t make the doing my purpose.
Praying seems too passive for the able and active. A “purpose-driven life” must be filled with “acts of service” that make a tangible difference in the world; acts to bring about peace, justice, and the gospel to the world……bettering the lives of the people we are in relationship with, or bettering the lives of the under- resourced or broken heart-ed or the enslaved. Such would bring great meaning to a life. Would it not?
|Praying is many times an activity that decorates what we really want to be about rather what we are to be about.|
We all recognize the merits of the above as worthy of being purposeful. But just praying? Hmmm… Praying is many times an activity that decorates what we really want to be about. Praying as an end to itself is usually assigned to the elderly or disabled who can’t do anything else or to the helpless and distraught that feel tangible options are off the table or to orders of nuns or monks who have been called to a community of prayer.
Imagine someone asking you what your purpose in life was and “praying” was your answer. Imagine asking yourself what the meaning of your life was and you answer, “To pray.” I don’t know about you but that answer would sound, dare I say it, boring or presumptuous or as often has been said, “too heavenly minded to be any earthy good.” Yes, I want to pray and I want to do even more of it than I am doing but making that the purpose of my life? At the risk of repeating myself, it just sounds too mundane and maybe not even spiritual enough or maybe too spiritual and maybe even a little lonely and risky. Now, why would I say that? Self-examination seems to indicate that I use more actions and less trust to carry me through the daily tasks at hand. How do I know that? Well, for starters I am aware of how little I invite Jesus into my comings and goings. I am aware of how little I engage him with my self-talk. I am a trouble shooter on a good day- a worrier on a bad day and in neither days is Jesus invited into the situation. It comes down to this: Does praying really have efficacy? Prayer as my purpose, no doubt, would be a dead end if I doubted the power behind it. Prayer would be a dead end if I brought to prayer my will of how things should go and Not God’s. Prayer would be a dead end if I listened too hard and long to the doers of this world and not the be-ers. Prayer would be a dead end if I believed myself unworthy or my concerns too insignificant to count.
I am comforted that in the gospel of Mark a distraught father asked Jesus to heal his demon possessed son. Jesus told him to believe. And in sincere desperation the father cried out, “I believe, help me in my unbelief!” Mark did not have to record that interaction. I am glad he did. It frees me up to be real with Jesus. “Praying as purpose” requires extraordinary faith, or does it? The father in this Jesus interaction certainly didn’t come to prayer with great faith but he came – to Jesus. Coming to Jesus is coming to prayer with little faith or with great faith. It’s coming with certainty or coming completely befuddled about God or about myself – maybe, especially about myself. So, I am allowed to be perplexed about a lot of things like the trinity or how free will and predestination work or why God doesn’t just put an end to this violent world and usher in his new earth and heaven. And I get to be perplexed about how praying actually can be so purposeful and powerful that it can be a person’s main purpose in life causing told and untold transformations in human institutions and in individuals.
I have become increasing aware of the myriad of internal dialogues which often lead to a disruption of faith and trust. I am embarking on a new goal: Inviting Jesus into the dialogues- literally- “Jesus, I am now inviting you into this desire, worry, concern, distress or happiness”. I’m not sure but this may be part of the meaning of the apostle’s Paul’s words to, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
If prayer as purpose sounds too basic, mundane, weak, boring, then l suggest a word search of prayer in the New Testament. Be astounded with the numerous references, circumstances, purposes and outcomes. But always remember it is the object of praying that holds the power and purpose. It’s Jesus, it’s always about Jesus –“the author and finisher of our faith”. He prayed, his followers prayed, and so should we. It’s a great purpose. It tells us who we are no matter what.