I had an interesting fall… as in ‘autumn,’ not as in ‘down the stairs.’ Actually, I got a pack of fairly slippery socks last year for Christmas and they don’t like the slick wooden steps in our house, so I do fall down the stairs from time to time. It’s usually an interesting story, but not the one for today.
September through December was… I’m actually struggling for the right word here… difficult for many friends of mine in ministry. It’s not my place to share their stories. What I can say is that I had a large number of phone conversations, email exchanges and face-to-face talks with people in the midst of real and deep struggle. We’re talking about situations far beyond burn-out and busy seasons.
There was a lot.
There was a lot of yelling. There was a lot of despair and hurt and injury. There was a lot of hopelessness. There were a lot of tears. There were a lot of words followed by a lot of silence. There was just… a lot…
I had advice. I had head nods. I had sympathy and understanding. Occasionally, I had a Scripture passage that came up. But most of the time, all that was truly needed was somebody on the other end of the phone, or somebody that would take the time to reply, or somebody that was willing to listen.
I think I did the things we all try to do. We try to be present in the moment with them. If we’re asked… we try to guide towards something positive. We wonder what more we can do. They usually say, “nothing.” Frankly, we don’t have all the answers. We can be one, though.
Then comes the time between the words and that’s where the best of our presence and the best of our love must unfold. That’s when we pray. If our faith is real and if our love is deep, that’s the best thing that we can offer. Pray with them. Pray for them. Pray around them and about them. When your words fail you completely, whisper their names on the very breath that God has given you and that will be enough.
It won’t solve problems, but that’s not why we pray. It won’t “fix” anything. That’s not why we pray, either. It fails when it’s a wish list. As a magic wand, it will fall tragically short. To even ask the question “How do we know when it has succeeded?” is to miss the point completely.
Prayer is an ongoing conversation between souls. It’s a love song between created and Creator. It is made up of groans much deeper than words and whispers from spirit to Spirit. Prayer is always about alignment. It’s alignment to a will greater than your own. It’s alignment to purposes beyond what you can achieve or dream. It’s alignment of lives and love to a Presence that made all life and love and draws them unto Himself.
Pray today. Pray without ceasing. Pray for those around you who are struggling. Pray on their behalf. Pray by walking up to them and talking to them. Pray for them by serving them. Pray for them by loving them. Pray for them and just be there… a lot.