Sunday, September 28, 2008

...and God joined the conversation!

When is “prayer” a genuine conversation with the Living God, a Person wholly other? When is it more an exercise in analysis, self-awareness, and Biblically-principled problem-solving? These are not intellectual questions for me, but a hopeful journey towards transforming awareness of God’s real and personal Presence.

I awoke this morning with the memory of two conversations. One was between Jesus and a smart-mouthed Samaritan outcast beside a well in the heat of mid-day.
[1] The other took place along a weary road leading out of Jerusalem, when the resurrected Jesus joined a couple heading to Emmaus three days after the crucifixion.[2] The Samaritan woman had never met Jesus and had no idea who he was, but freely engaged this stranger in spirited religious debate. The couple knew him well, and loved him, but had just watched Him die.[3] They were kept from recognizing the fellow traveler who questioned them and listened as they grappled together to make sense of their confusion and grief, and then opened the Scriptures to them with authority.

Prayer, in its simplest definition, is conversation with God. What captured my attention in that morning space between sleep and waking is that both the woman and the couple were doing just that. They were engaged in dialogue with the Living God. The thing is, they didn’t know it! They did not even imagine themselves at prayer.

In both instances, Jesus reveals Himself, His Presence with them, before the conversation ends. The revelation surprises them. And it changes everything about their stories.

Could it be that you and I are sometimes engaged in conversation with Jesus, the Living God, without knowing it? That our thoughts, our attempts to make sense of our confusion through reason and principle can be prayer, with God very much engaged in the inner dialogue even though we can’t seem to get out of our own heads?

How do we know?

I think maybe it’s in the surprise! The moments when suddenly we see our dilemma in a whole new way, a redemptive way beyond our own personality and experience. That’s what happened with the lonely, embittered woman, and with that devastated couple.

Oh, Lord Jesus, surprise us! When we don’t know how to pray, aren’t sure what to do, and can’t see You with us in our confusion, grief, or our bitter disappointment with ourselves and others. Surprise us with Your presence and Your grace!

[1] See John 4
[2] See Luke 24:13-35
[3] Luke names only one of the pair, Cleopas. One of the Mary’s who watched and waited beneath the cross was married to Clopas. Could Luke’s unnamed one be her?

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