Last week I invited you to think about why we worship. This week, I’m asking you to think about prayer, specifically, how it is that we are “prayer partners” with God. We’ll hear a scripture lesson of selected verses from Romans 8, where the Apostle Paul writes about the new life that is ours through God’s Spirit. Because Paul’s writing can be dense at times, we’ll listen to Eugene Peterson’s translation and paraphrase of Paul. Here’s a couple of sample sentences: “Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle, but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them–living and breathing God.” And what does Paul tell us about the Spirit’s role in our prayers? “God’s Spirit is right alongside, helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. The Spirit does our praying in us and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” Alongside that passage from Romans, we’ll hear Luke’s words describing Jesus’ very human agony while at prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night he was arrested, and we’ll reflect on the meaning of his prayer for us.
Jane Vennard, a United Church of Christ pastor and spiritual director, led a week-long seminar that I attended based on her book “The Praying Congregation.” On Sunday, we’ll consider her words about how God partners with us in prayer: “Praying with God is simply honoring the presence of God in every aspect of my life. I pray with God, and God prays with me. I pray in God, and God prays in me. We are one, and we honor that reality. I pray with God when I dance with joy, when I weep in despair, and when I speak out for justice. I pray in God, when I sit, silently gazing out the window at winter’s first snowfall, enveloped in the silence of creation. God prays in me when I feel a longing to be still in the presence of God, when I am moved to reach out to someone in need, or when I am filled with love that I cannot keep from overflowing into the world. God is simply about presence–my presence in God and God’s presence in me.”
Praying isn’t just for the spiritual giants among us. It’s for all of us who can probably relate to what Paul said: If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter–the Spirit does our praying in us and for us. So, bring your wordless sighs and your aching groans to worship as we all enter into God’s presence.