Ordinary LifePrayerspiritual disciplines

Prayer, the language of people in trouble

Stormy North Shore, Lake Superior

As I enter the new week, I do not anticipate trouble. Nor am I in trouble today. Unless I count unwanted robo calls to my cell phone. And yet the human condition always teeters on the edge of disaster. So this week, as life streams to us wet and wild,

Temperance River, Tofte, Minnesota

I’m telling myself not to be surprised, but rather be armed with gladness knowing that for everyday troubles (for cataclysmic troubles, too) we have recourse in prayer. The Psalms are filled with exactly what we need for expressing our emotions and for getting our heads realigned.

The Psalms were not prayed by people trying to understand themselves. They are not the record of people searching for the meaning of life. They were prayed by people who understood that God had everything to do with them. God, not their feelings, was the center. God, not their souls, was the issue. God, not the meaning of life, was critical. Feelings, souls, and meanings were not excluded – they are very much in evidence – but they are not the reason for the prayers.  … Prayer is the language of the people who are in trouble and know it, and who believe or hope that God can get them out.  – Answering God by Eugene Peterson. 

And so, the week began and around here there were small fires. Little troubles, but nothing major, major.  As Denis and Anita and I met for prayer we talked about how easy it is to forget the answers, the care God gives. We want to remember and be thankful for even the little things. It is remembering what he has done that helps us keep our heads straight and our hearts from becoming too heavy.

Get back here, you rascals

My chickens ran away. I have allowed them a little free range and so far they hadn’t abused the privilege. But in that one moment when I turned my head, they were gone. A quick search did not spy them. I called Denis for help knowing that if they were lost it was ONLY my fault. No one else to blame. The neighbors in our area have large one acre lots that border a dense wood. All our yards back up to it. A more thorough search and still no chickens. I thought of my four little hens torn to shreds by dogs, eaten by raccoons, lifted away by hawks. Yes, I thought, your fault totally. Still, I prayed, Lord if it be your will … and, I know, I know, my fault alone … but please.

Hanging out near the Wood

Denis suggested I stand by their coop and call them. They generally cock their heads and softly croak back at me and often come to my voice.  I felt like a fool calling in my loudest “Baby-come-home” voice. With Denis urging me I kept it up for about five minutes.  A long time to be sounding like an idiot. (Yes. I know.)  Denis was standing on the deck with a better view when he suddenly yelled, “Here they come!”  All four of them emerged from the wood far away,  across our neighbor’s yard, running and flapping their wings, home to me.

Okay. A small thing compared to much of life, right? And yet, I know that even in these small instances I should acknowledge God’s help and presence. I’m thankful. It’s proper practice. He’s a good God whether we find our chickens or not. There is always this: without any I could do on my part, the ultimate rescue has already been accomplished, the most important prayer has been answered – I’m in. I’m going to be radically completely redeemed one day.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. – Psalm 107:28-29