Feeling FUBAR? #AWOP!
In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
Mark 11:2-24 NRSV
Friends, this morning I have a challenge for us. In Christianese: the Lord has laid it on my heart that this is to be a week of prayer. I know that sounds pretty ditzy, and some of you are already looking for the EXIT signs. But hear me out.
I think most of us have read today’s reading and wished that were true, right? Maybe not physical mountains (although whatever floats your boat; we try not to judge here), but certainly mountains of other kinds: cancer, job loss, destructing marriages, depression, the list goes on. A long list of seemingly unanswered prayers, all of it ending in a big question mark. It makes us despondent, right? It puts us off prayer. Like, why bother? God is good and all that, but – why bother?
But here’s my question, one that I’m asking myself first and one that I’m hoping we will all be able to help each other with: do we pray like we expect the mountain to listen?
I don’t think that the power of prayer is seated in us, and that’s a good thing, or we would all be royally—well. And I’m not naive enough to believe that one week of prayer will answer all our metaphysical questions about prayer, about why it does or does not work, why it’s necessary; I don’t think this will resolve Big Issues. I’m only hoping that it will help us to start asking questions, questions about faith and fear, questions about ourselves, about God and about our relationship with him.
And if we’re lucky, maybe we even get some answers along the way.
But that said, answers will not be our main pursuit: having the kind of faith in God that expects a mountain to move on our say-so, that will be. Having an active enough relationship with the Lord that we would risk believing in audacious prayers, that will be.
How the #AweekOfPrayer or #AWOP will work:
With God, the best way to start so often appears to be butt first, so we’re going to dive right into audacious, intentional praying.
We’re going to aim to spend at least fifteen minutes a day every day this week engaged in intentional, focused prayers. I’m distinguishing between “prayer” (an ongoing conversation with and being present to God) and “prayers” (intercession, or interceding in prayer on your own or someone else’s behalf). Our focus will be the latter. Fifteen minutes sounds like a large chunk of time, but if you break it down into five minute increments spaced throughout the day, it’s less intimidating.
Because our minds tend to wander, I suggest we write our prayers down – that way we stay actively engaged with God, and we have a record of who or what we prayed for. Scribble it down on a jotter or use your mobile phone or PC; but have it handy.
Who or what you pray for is really up to you. I’ve made a list; I asked God to give me some names. Usually that kind of thing sets me on edge because I always wonder whether it’s really God giving me names or just me projecting. I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter on account that we could all use some prayer, and God is nice enough not to listen to any prayers that involve people I don’t like, their shoes and fire.
Finally, the important thing here is to go big. To risk praying those prayers we worry God won’t answer, that are too impossible. To risk believing that with God, anything is possible. To pray like we expect the mountain to move.
Lord God, this week especially let my faith be bigger than my fear, for You are bigger still! Let your Holy Spirit give voice to those prayers You’ve heard muttered in my heart or mourned in my soul. This week we will move mountains together. Yes. Yes. Yes. Amen.