Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Today begins an ongoing Wednesday series exploring prayer. I'd be honored if you'd join me.
Out on the porch, the sun beat down relentless. I peeled one bare leg at a time off the plastic chair and readjusted myself in my seat. Mr. Thornton, his head full of white hair tucked under a dusty John Deere hat, was sitting next to me, scowling. “When you grow up, “ he paused to squint at the sky, “don’t you be like that mean woman over there.” He pointed with a work-bent finger across the yard to an orange and brown trailer house with its blinds pulled tight against the heat. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, watching the blank face of the trailer like a cat on the prowl. “That mean woman” was his daughter, Beth. They lived on the same 10 acres, but they hadn’t spoken to each other in three years. Beth would stay inside as long as she knew her dad was on his porch, so I made a joke and tried to change the subject. Despite their feud, I liked Mr. Thornton and his daughter. It was bitterness that had twisted them this way, old sadness weighing down whatever love tried to rise from the pit they’d dug. I was nineteen that summer, listening and watching in a new way, trying to learn how to make a life.
I crawled in bed that night with a Bible in my hands and the windows open to a late summer breeze. I could see how life might get upside down, how the aching seed would be planted. I could see how it would grow and rub away at you until you chafed and bent, until you flinched whenever anyone got near. I wondered aloud how anyone could grow up and not get mean.
God answered that night with a scripture that was to become the commanding verse for my life, a guide to keep me - keep all of us - from the twisting of the bitter vine. It begins this way:
Your word tells us that You live to make intercession for us. You are the great High Priest, even this moment standing before the throne of the Living God, pleading for our good. Intercede for us now, Lord, that we may desire to join You in Your eternal work.
May we not take lightly this privilege You have purchased for us. In a world of oppression, where strong men wage war for power, where the poor and the weak are crushed beneath ambition, You invite us to enter the highest throne room of all. O Lord, we should tremble, but You have made us bold. May we not squander this opportunity, but desire it above all other things. Lord, make us devoted to prayer and in doing so, You will make us like You. Light a fire within us that will not be quenched.
Holy Spirit, be our help. When we leave this moment, when the “amen” has been whispered and we rise to work, go with us and teach us. When frustrations arise, when trouble comes, speak to us of prayer. When we are alone and quiet, in the midst of joy, remind us of prayer. When we are frightened or anxious, when need threatens to swallow us, urge us on to prayer.
Oh, make us true servants of Christ. We give ourselves to Your call.
In Your own precious name, Jesus, we pray.