Video Link: Learning to Pray* (This is a video of the reflection printed below.)
Read: Psalm 63:1-8
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1, NRSV).
Sometimes I think we make prayer too complicated. Maybe we think we have to be eloquent, or that prayer will only “work” if we have our hands folded in some formal pose. But deep down, I think we all know that prayer can happen in a heartbeat. I suspect that some of the most sincere prayers happen just that way—like signal flares shot into the night sky.
The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. But in a sense, it was the psalms that taught Jesus to pray. And many of the psalms read like candid conversations between friends. Of course, we only hear one side of the conversation—but there’s not much doubt that God is on the receiving end. And one suspects that the psalmists were listening as well as talking—straining to hear what God might be saying to them in return.
So, when you pray—don’t make it harder than it needs to be. And of course, different situation call for different kinds of prayers. “Emergency” prayers are one thing, but if that’s the only kind of prayer we pray I think we may begin to test God’s patience!
One of the biggest challenges is to make “space” for prayer. So many things clamor for our attention. Sometimes I feel like my brain is a bug in a jar.
Here’s a poem that helps me to prepare for prayer. It’s by David Adam:
I weave a silence onto my lips.
I weave a silence into my mind.
I weave a silence within my heart.
Calm me, O Lord, as you stilled the storm.
Still me, O Lord, keep me from harm.
Let all the tumult within me cease.
Enfold me, Lord, in your peace.
Then a few deep breaths, and I’m ready to pray.
Ponder: Is there anything you want to change about your own prayer life? If so, what might be your first step?
Pray: Teach me to pray, O Lord. Help me to make space for conversations with you.
*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,