Video Link: Teach Us to Pray 6-Trust* (This is a video of the reflection printed below.)
Read: Psalm 131
But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me (Psalm 131:2, NRSV).
Not every prayer is about asking for something. I wonder, sometimes, if God gets a bit bored with prayers that read like grocery lists.
Sometimes, prayer can simply be an expression of trust. This is not always easy, as one of the Bible’s best prayers illustrates. Psalm 23 begins “The Lord is my shepherd,” but then it goes on to talk about walking through a dangerous valley. The psalmist says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4).
It seems to me that a prayer like that takes considerable courage. Trust in the face of danger is difficult. And I suspect that even Psalm 23 may have been written with a shaking hand. We owe it to the author to acknowledge this—and perhaps we also owe it to ourselves. Prayers of trust aren’t what we pray once we have our act together. They are the prayers we pray when we are scared out of our wits.
But one of my favorite prayers of trust is an obscure little psalm that is often overlooked. Psalm 131 paints an unforgettable picture of prayer that can, I think, lead us into a more profound experience of prayer than maybe we’d ever imagined. The psalmist says, “I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother” (v.2). First, the picture invites us to imagine God as a mother, which is a rich image in and of itself. But notice as well the use of the words “weaned child.” What’s that about?
A nursing child with its mother often has—shall we say—an “agenda.” But a weaned child behaves quite differently. The weaned child is able to relax and enjoy the intimate presence of its mother.
That is a picture of prayer from which we can all learn. Sometimes prayer is not about making demands, but simply about enjoying the intimate presence of our loving Mother. Try it sometime. You don’t even need words.
Ponder: When was the last time you simply sat quietly with God? Is that a form of prayer you might welcome right now?
Pray this refrain from Christopher Walker’s setting of Psalm 131:
Like a child rests in its mother’s arms,
so will I rest in you;
like a child rests in its mother’s arms,
so will I rest in you.
Or listen to his setting of all of Psalm 131: Like a Child Rests – Christopher Walker
*This video was written and delivered by the Rev. Dr. Carol M. Bechtel, Professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan (Reformed Church in America). Dr. Bechtel is also the Executive Director of the American Waldensian Society. These videos were produced by the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese https://www.chiesavaldese.org/and filmed in the Cottian Alps near Torre Pellice, Italy in July of 2020.
Introduction to Teach Us to Pray Series 2
On my recent sabbatical in Italy, colleagues from the Waldensian church invited me to do a series of short videos on prayer. These reflections are a result of that invitation. Although they were written and filmed in the midst of the pandemic (July 2020), they are not “Covid-19 specific.” Still, knowing that they were created in that crucible may add a certain urgency—and utility—to them. I offer them to you here in the hope that they will help you to pray even as our world’s anxiety threatens to make our souls mute.
All of the videos were filmed outside my little lockdown chalet in the Angrogna Valley in northwest Italy, so at the very least, you can enjoy the scenery. And I hope you also enjoy the Italian subtitles. Learn Italian while learning to pray!
Still learning and still praying,