As the associate pastor at my church, one of my responsibilities is to provide the pastoral prayer every Sunday. I thought, “I love talking to God. This will be easy, maybe even fun.” Oh, I was so naive, so unaware, so out of touch with the rhythm of my own prayer life. But, I was quickly reminded of the times when life makes talking to God very hard, when we cannot find the words to talk to the Word- God, when we cannot say, “Amen” because we don’t want to believe that it is or can be so, when we don’t want to agree with God.
Every Sunday, I stand up and share in the joys and concerns of our faith community. Every Sunday, twice every Sunday, both at our contemporary and traditional services, I “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12.15). Every Sunday, I stand in front of the congregation and invite them to talk to God, to tell the always good God about the bad things that are happening in their lives and in the lives of those they love, work with and serve. Every Sunday, I walk to the front of the sanctuary and say, “It’s praying time.”
How I wish that all of our conversations were only filled with good things, endless occasions of celebration: baby and wedding announcements, graduations and job promotions, first apartments and new houses. I pray for the hastening of the day when I do not have to hear words like illness, disease, abuse, addiction, bullying, terrorism, unemployment, death. I don’t want to talk to God about that. And it is not a new conundrum.
Most human beings, if not all, find it difficult to talk about a loving God and a suffering world. Suffering has caused many to question the existence of God or to deny God altogether. They believe that the two cannot coexist, that one cancels the other out. So, if suffering exists, then God does not. God forbid.
I realize that our yearning for a life without discussion questions only answers, for continual good, of endless celebration is a yearning for heaven. So, what do we do with the difficult days and the hard questions? We give them to God. We talk about it and talk about it and talk about it. We make our lives one continual conversation with God, “praying without ceasing,” living and always talking, always taking our words, our answers and questions to God (First Thessalonians 5.17).
We must pray the questions until they become answers. Amen.