On prayer and presence

Do you ever get the feeling you are hemmed in by blessing both before you and behind you?  And that despite this season of grief and being torn from what was made familiar, there is promise in the ordinary, steady work of the hand of God?

I couldn’t sleep this morning.  I woke up around four o’clock and made the efforts at tossing and turning until it made more sense to rise and simply make something of these moments.

Photo credit: http://ayearabout.wordpress.com/category/new-england/.

And I’m sitting here in the dark of autumn in the early hours, oddly comforted by the quiet and the thoughts that wouldn’t leave me this morning: thoughts of friends and family who’ve listened to my thoughts these past few weeks with prayerful diligence, feelings of excitement about the presentation I gave yesterday on my research and the generosity with which it was received, and the sense that at a time like this, when China is fluttering away with rush hour energy on the other side of the world, God must be in the midst of it all, painstakingly working for justice and peace and love in motions far beyond my understanding.

I had that sense when I sat in silent prayer last Thursday at a weekly meditation lunch on the university campus.  I breathed in and out and felt filled by God’s presence.

Perhaps it was easier because I’d met with my spiritual director the day before and she’d made me attuned to the slightest of thoughts and motions that push God further away.  Perhaps it was the way in which the leader of the session invited us to think of those who were suffering and tears rushed to my eyes as I thought of all those friends and families in China who are ever on my heart and yet feel so far away.

Or perhaps it was simply the stopping, the breathing, and the embracing, that is that first necessary step toward God.

This morning’s meditation from Oswald Chambers talks about prayer as the end to our means.  It talks about the work that prayer does in us, and the sense that it is enough.  These words gave me great comfort and peace, especially at a time where I continue to feel the distance and the distress in leaving China in all the small and great things alike:

Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. And He promises, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do . . . (John 14:13). 

In prayer, we are promised God’s presence, which is what the spiritual life is all about–finding, knowing, and being known by God.  And so as I go about my daily life in this place, despite the aching and restless feelings that come with the culture shock, I’m starting to embrace the fact that God has called me here, and that prayer can be greater and wider and more than silence or rightness with God or signs of holiness.

I’m starting to realize that maybe all of life is prayer and my role is simply to show up.

What do you think?

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