Even prayers of anguish connect us closely with God
Demonstrations and marches. Finger pointing and name calling. Terrorist attacks and senseless deaths. Hurricanes and fires. The threat of nuclear war.
At times it all seems too much!
If we're honest, we often lean more to numbing out than facing the reality of this world with all of its brokenness and problems.
We've developed subtle, even socially acceptable, ways of numbing. We immerse ourselves in our work. We over-control the minor aspects of our lives to compensate our inability to influence the larger issues. We construct emotional walls to hide behind, projecting the image that we are "fine" and "doing well."
At times we even use prayer as an attempt to feel like we're immune to, even protected from, pain. If we just pray enough, if we just pray correctly, we can escape the pain of the world.
Or so we think.
But there is another kind of prayer - one that is not about numbing out, but about diving in. It is about engaging more deeply, more honestly with the complexities and struggles of life.
This kind of prayer is not as much about fixing things as it is about connecting with the longings of God. It's the kind of prayer that echoes the prayers that God prays.
Scripture reminds us that the Holy Spirit helps us by praying for us, with us, through us, with inexpressible groans.
This is so comforting to me because it means that I don't have to obsess about getting prayer "right." I don't have to find just the right words or the right formula, or even have the right attitude.
It is sufficient for me to just groan - to feel the grief of living in a broken world, to acknowledge the longing for my life and the world to be restored and made whole.
Then every longing for justice, every cry of anguish, and every dream of a better world becomes a prayer expressing not just our longings, but the longings of God.
Even in our moments of greatest pain, God is praying for us that we will know that nothing can separate us from God's love. It is then that we discover that even in our suffering we can experience life deeply and abundantly. We can come to understand even more fully that we are God's children.
And with that assurance, we can live with new confidence and courage. Confidence and courage to be part of God's work to heal a broken world - one small act of kindness at a time. Let's start!
Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.