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Prayer is Being with God

This past Sunday we were one congregation worshiping in three different places: at Beersheba Springs, at Riverbend Maximum Security prison and at 508 Franklin Road. It was one of those days when I wanted to be in three places at once!

My family and I spent Friday and Saturday at Beersheba on the All-Church Retreat. We enjoyed the singing around the campfire, the spiritual learning with Sister Kathleen, the fun of the volleyball tournament, the beauty of hiking to the Stone Door and the wackiness of Mark Price’s “Maltese Flamingo” skit on Saturday night. By the time we went to bed on Saturday night, we were full of fun, food and fellowship.

On Sunday morning we got up early and headed back to Franklin for the 8:30 service at 508 Franklin Road. While it was hard to leave the beauty of the mountains and the joy of the fellowship on the retreat, I wanted to be here to support our preacher for the morning, David Ssebulime, and to worship with the part of our congregation that was gathered in this place. And what a blessing it was!

The focus of Sunday’s service was prayer. David inspired us to think of prayer as joyful and even fun. He urged us to undergird every part of our lives with prayer and to build every ministry of the church on prayer. Before we go out into the work in mission, he said, we should pray.

As I listened to him talk about the power of prayer, I remembered some things that Sister Kathleen had said on the retreat about “Wesley’s House.” John Wesley described the spiritual life as a house with three parts: the Porch of repentance and grace, the Door of faith and the House of holiness. I don’t have enough room on the page to delve into this rich image too deeply, but I found myself on Sunday morning thinking about the Porch of repentance and grace. The Porch is where we encounter God’s complete love for us, just as we are. It is where we remember that our primary identity is as God’s beloved. That’s where our relationship with God begins and returns again and again.

I think that prayer invites us all onto the Porch of God’s love. There are many reasons why we pray and many different ways to pray. We pray to ask God for help for others and ourselves. We pray to thank God. We pray to repent. We pray to seek God’s guidance. But sometimes it’s important to pray for no other reason than just to “sit on the Porch,” to rest in God’s love and to be reminded that we are beloved.

One of my struggles with prayer is always trying to accomplish something—to gain some insight or to achieve a feeling or to work toward results. But the more I practice prayer, the more I realize what David said on Sunday morning: “Prayer is communion with God.” Prayer is being with God, being loved by God, being shaped by God, being open to God, being totally dependent on God. This week, I invite you to spend some time sitting on the Porch with God, not doing or accomplishing anything. Just resting. As we seek together to deepen our prayer lives, there’s no better place to start.