Let Us Pray
The season of Lent is once again upon us. This 40 day period of solemnity (we don't count Sundays, they're always feast days) was once a time of preparation, fasting, and prayer for those preparing for Baptism. The season of Lent would end with these candidates for Baptism (called "catechumens," from the Greek and Latin word for "to instruct") participating in the Sacrament of Baptism at the Easter Vigil on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. With shouts of Alleluia and much fanfare, these new Christians would be welcomed into the community of faith and together the entire Church would shake off the darkness of Lent and celebrate Christ's resurrection.
As the centuries have passed, the focus of Lenten practices has shifted away from the catechumens and on to all Christians (perhaps because we no longer have so many catechumens--what will we do about that?). Many of us are familiar with the tradition of giving up something for Lent. Chocolate and coffee seem to often top people's lists (although folks in my generation might think of the movie "40 Days and 40 Nights"). If giving up something is part of your tradition, I don't intend to put you off of it, but I wonder if you might join me in another Lenten discipline this year: prayer.
All Christians are called to lives of prayer, but if you are like me, at times this can seem more like a dream than a reality. My parents have a poem hanging in their house that begins: "I got up early one morning and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish that I didn't have time to pray." Especially in our technological and busy world, finding even a few minutes to pause and center on God can seem impossible. The poem goes on to describe a chaotic and difficult day, in which it seems as if God is not paying attention, but by the end the poet realizes where the communication has broken down (it wasn't on God's end) and concludes: " I woke up early this morning and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray."
I invite you for these 40 days of Lent to spend some time each day in prayer. How you pray is not as important as that you pray. You can pray first thing in the morning or at night, before meals, over your coffee, in the car, with others or by your self, silently or out loud, structured or free, speaking to God or listening. Some of my best prayer time is swimming laps at the YMCA (I think it has something to do with Baptism, don't you?). If you're new to prayer, out of practice, or just need help just holler, I know of several veteran pray-ers in our congregation, there are guides to prayer by our front door, check out our Wednesday night Taizé prayer at 7pm, or download the daily podcast at http://www.pray-as-you-go.org
And then lets talk to one another about how our prayer is going. That's one of the main reasons we gather as a congregation, you know, to encourage and support each other in our Christian lives. Ask someone how they pray, or offer to pray with them. Invite someone to pray for you, it can be a powerful experience. And please include our congregation in your prayers. We are now one month into a five year process of Transformation. This will be a time in which we spend a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out what sort of congregation God is calling us to become. Transformation is not something that we can do, it's something God does in and through us. Prayer is central to listening and responding to the call of God. And after all, isn't that what we're all about? Let us pray...