He whose soul remains forever turned in the direction of God…finds himself nailed to the very center of the universe. It is the true center; it is not in the middle, it beyond space and time, it is God. Simone Weil, Waiting on God
Prayer is a serene force at work within human beings, stirring them up, transforming them, never allowing them to close their eyes in the face of evil, or wars, of all that threatens the weak of this world. From it we draw energy to wage other struggles – to enable our loved ones to survive, to transform the human condition, to make the earth a place fit to live in. Brother Roger of Taize
Summer has always been a time when I become most connected to my interior life and renewed by the connection I feel to the earth and to God. The first summer I was in seminary I went everyday to sit on my favorite rock in Connecticut. It was at Diana’s Pool and overlooked a waterfall. I would sit their breathing in deeply the peace surrounding me. I would listen and watch the birds sing and flat on the air currents. I would listen to the rustling of small animals in the woods. If I was early enough I could catch a deer drinking from the river. During this time I would say thanks for all that I had been given, pray for my church family and ask God to guide me where I should go. It was a time when I seemed able to make the time to write about my love of God, my love of the earth, and my passion for scripture that celebrate both.
Then I would lead worship on Sunday and be frustrated by the time of prayer where the connection I had with God outside seemed distant and far away. I wondered how the time of prayer could be changed. When I pushed the boundaries of silence people would start crinkling their bulletins and shuffling their feet. When I would try to write prayer on my own, my words always felt inadequate. I was left longing for more.
So how can we make the experience of prayer within worship reflect the answer I am always given when people find out I’m a pastor and want to explain why they don’t go to church. They tell me I find God outside and inside is just dull. So how can we make the prayer in worship relevant to people.
I wonder if one of the ways we do this is to start using the psalms as our guides for prayer. These prayers are both prayers and song. The psalms come in two main forms. One is lament: the cry of help, the cry of suffering, the cry of loss. The other is thanksgiving and praise to God: the cry of joy and hope for this bountiful earth and glorious creator, the cry thankful for all we individually and as a community have been blessed with. There is also a third kind of prayer, without demands or explicit expression of praise. In Psalm 131 for instance, there is nothing but quietness and confidence:
O God, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like a weaned child that is with me O Israel,
hope in the Holy One from this time on and forevermore.
A time of silence, but how do we make the silence pregnant with the Spirit? Taize worship consists of singing with silent meditation, prayers of intercession, and with readings from the book of Psalms. Silence is a central part of this service and provides an opportunity to commune with God. Taize is a monastic community in southeastern France. Brother Roger began this community to bring young people together through the mission of healing the divisions between Christians. Thousands of people from all over the world gather at Taize every week to pray, to search, to sing, and to find refreshment and renewal.
My yearning is that in worship we can create a time of prayer that places us in God’s hands, opens us up to the power of the Spirit blowing through us and touches our hearts.
Healing, sovereign God, overmatch our resistant ears with you transforming speech. Penetrate our jadedness and fatigue. Touch our yearnings by your words. Through your outloudness, draw us closer to you. We are ready to listen. Amen (Walter Brueggemann).