I practice prayer. At times I find it dull and boring. Sometimes it feels like a terrible waste of time. After all, there are emails to answer and phone calls to make and meetings to attend and memos to write. But I do it anyway because I have found that the more I work at prayer the more open I am to the spirit of God filling up the emptiness of my life in ways that I could never create on my own.
Philip Yancey says in his book Reaching for the Invisible God that “the life of faith sometimes consists of acting as if the whole thing is true.…I act as if God is a loving (parent); I treat my neighbors as if they truly bear God’s image; I forgive those who wrong me as if God has forgiven me first.”
He goes on to say that “the act of looking (for God), the pursuit itself, makes possible the encounter. For this reason Christianity has always insisted that trust and obedience come first, and knowledge follows.”
This trust and obedience helps us practice being Christian. It creates an opportunity to act like a Christian even when we don’t feel very Christ-like. Fred Craddock wrote a few years ago that when a church is seeking a minister they ought to be able to “expect that he or she is Christian.” That may seem obvious but there is profound truth in that statement. None of us in ministry are perfect or without sin but all of us are called to practice our faith, to follow Jesus. We are called to keep practicing it until we get to the resurrection.
Faith is hard work. Living a life of prayer and practicing the biblical call to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God is not easy. It takes constant repetition and serious commitment.
Americans like us live in a fast food society and sometimes we want our faith and our beliefs to come as easy as an order of fries at the drive up window: “I’ll have a Big Mac, a chocolate shake and a bag of faith to go please.” As much as I wish it was that easy it is not. Thomas Merton, the brilliant Roman Catholic monk, said, “If you find God with great ease perhaps it is not God that you have found.” His words are true.
Practice rarely makes perfect but practicing our faith opens our hearts and minds to the presence of God and that is more than enough to get me through the day.
Grace and peace to you,