In God’s Companions, Sam Wells, Duke University chaplain, suggests that one thing we hope become is persons congregations whose prayer makes sense.
Wells writes that there are patterns of life that help us become people of prayer. These patterns of life parallel aspects of prayer itself – petition, wonder, confession, gratitude, and silence.
Becoming the kind of person who can make petition to God means becoming incarnate – in other words, we are prodded to discover more about the actual flesh and blood person being prayed for, possibly to get to know them and the particulars of their life, perhaps visit them. It also means acknowledging, in humility, that we are all vulnerable, needy, and unable to rely on ourselves alone. This leads to patience with others when their brokenness or shortcomings are evident.
In a community that knows how to make petition, we learn to make petition of one another, asking “how can I help” and asking for help when we need it. It means embracing our interdependence.
Becoming the kind of person who can wonder at the goodness and mystery of God also means cherishing the splendor of the creation and exulting in our own life as part of creation. It might mean spending time with children for whom the gift of joy and wonder are still fresh.
In a community that knows wonder, we share the wonder and mystery of our own lives – our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and disappointments. It means celebrating together and comforting one another.
Becoming the kind of person who can confess sin to God also means being open to acknowledging patterns in our lives that we would just as soon ignore or deny.
In a community that knows how to confess, members positively seek to discover the ways in which they have wronged one another, never being surprised that misunderstanding, disappointment, and hurt occur, but seeing each instance as a prelude to reconciliation. It means being willing to speak and hear the truth in love.
Becoming the kind of person who can give thanks to God also means paying attention to the goodness in our lives and in the world around us and relishing it. It means understanding our life as a gift to be received rather than a prize to be seized.
In a community that knows how to give thanks, members will carefully consider those things for which they want or need to thank one another and how best to do so genuinely.
Becoming the kind of person who can be silent before God means understanding time as a gift to be shared rather than a commodity to be saved or spent. It means remembering that our time is not really our own, but God’s. It means learning to be still and to listen. It also means learning to be still long enough to listen to one another – listening (and watching) for revelation.
In a community that knows how to be silent, we make space to be silent together and share the intimacy and vulnerability of letting go of the urgency to always find the right word or the right action and resting in nothing but the grace of God.
May our lives make sense of our prayer and our prayer make sense of our lives.