Prayer Date

The plans of mice and men do often go awry, or something like that was penned by Steinbeck.

Well, so do those plans of women. I had a plan today. 

I had confided in a few friends about this odd desire to pray in community that had been growing within me. Frankly, it makes no rational sense, and I have been trying to ignore it. While I pray privately and frequently, praying with others can often be boring or embarrassing. Still, in these last months that I tried to shake this, or wait to see if something cropped up that I could join in but not lead, I couldn't get rid of this nudging. Finally I gave up, sending an email to invite a few friends to join me-friends who would not laugh in my face, though perhaps snicker to each other.  It makes no difference, anyway.  I had already begun fretting about what this should look like.
How does one prepare to pray with others?  Is there an app for that?  Are candles appropriate or too religious?  Music?  Structure or free flowing?  As the questions circled me, I found myself feeling awkward and a tad silly.  Why would I bother with this?  This isn't what I "do."  I am not a grand pray-er.  I mean, do I even pray correctly?
But I woke today determined to not listen to the doubts and just to be open to what God had for me.  I gathered a few things for the day and headed out to my breakfast date with a friend who I had not seen in years.
We caught up as we ate (she is a fabulous cook).  And then we talked about the it, the reason for our absence from each other's lives.  We haven't seen each other since her daughter's funeral 2 years ago.  We have texted and prayed together, but we have not sat in the same room and talked.  I apologized, explaining that she was often on my heart, but that I wanted to give her time, that I didn't want to remind her of a time that she longed for so much, when Molly would interrupt us, when we went camping together, when we would go on walks with Molly.  I didn't want to cause her more pain than she was already suffering. 
I never made my prayer date, that fussy scheduled event I had worried about.  Instead, God made it His, as my friend and I sat on her porch and she told me every sad moment of her daughter's death.  How she begged and expected God's power to show, repeatedly, but He did not.  Not in the way she wanted.  Not in the way she prayed then.  We cried together and talked about God's mystery together.  Hearts open.  Hearts broken.  Hearts surrendered.
Those sacred moments of prayer seem to happen when hearts are open to the Divine.
For all the religious workings around us, prayer is not the easy "ask and it shall be given" that we were taught as children.  We can knock until our hands hurt or the door splinters, but if God chooses not to open it, does our knocking make a difference?  If God will have His way, does our petition make sense?
I wish I could say I know.  I wish I could write with certainty and confidence on this topic.  While I know how real prayer is for me, it is difficult to make sense of what prayer is.  Instead of petitioning and glorifying God in prayer today, my friend and I bent broken hearts and tear stained faces in confusion and hope.  Will all this pain and loss make sense someday?  Or will it simply be forgotten as birth pains disappear when the mother first glimpses her child?
With broken hearts and tear stained faces turned to You, Father....
Your prayers, rather, should be simple, like this:
Our Father in heaven,
let Your name remain holy.

Bring about Your kingdom.

Manifest Your will here on earth,
as it is manifest in heaven.

Give us each day that day’s bread—no more, no less—
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive those who owe us something.   

Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

But let Your kingdom be,
and let it be powerful
and glorious forever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13 The Voice


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