Prayer is God’s reminder that we keep in touch and proof that God is not out of reach. God is not hands off but both hands are in, proven through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
The work of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing relationships take prayer. But, this is not a one time conversation. No, in order for this practice of faith to work, it must be practiced, repeated and prayed over again and again.
Each month, I write about prayer for Smyth & Helwys. Recently, I offered this reminder:
Keep in touch. Three little words often said but rarely practiced—at least not with acceptable regularity. Maybe when we first arrive and if we remember the next week but after that, we expect persons to understand that we’re now focused on our studies, learning our new position or the scenes and aromas of a new city or country. The reasons for delayed responses are seemingly endless.
Though our primary means of communicating is in our hands, we don’t have time to talk right now. Sending a text message is complicated because it opens us up to a potentially ongoing conversation and commitment to routinely check in as it were. Social media is a way of keeping persons abreast of what is happening in our world but in more of a classroom setting. Since we have at least 1,000 followers or friends, the words might seem to echo, not sounding distinct or for anyone in particular but are heard by anyone within earshot (or maybe read by anyone within screenshot). We would go to the post office to drop off a card as it is more personal but that takes too long and postage is so expensive. Who does that anymore, anyway?
Frankly, it depends on our relational proximity as to whether or not we will reach out in order to maintain the connection. If we were not close before, the hands that now span the distance between us will not create fondness in our heart but forgetfulness. Still, we make plans to call, to see each other soon, to catch up over a meal but so often, we don’t. The saying is true, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Keep in touch. It is a familiar request, a nice thing to say, the right thing to say. We say it and expect to hear it. It would be rude unless you are the creepy classmate that we lost touch with for a reason. In that case, I am thinking of three other words: Keep your distance.
When there is change in our lives, whether in relationship, career, finance, or health, do we find it difficult to keep in touch with God? After Sunday morning worship, do we make plans to talk to God tomorrow or the next day but then cancel or forget? Or, perhaps we think that God only comes to church and only plan to meet there again the following Sunday. Because if we don’t see the steeple, the pews, or the preacher, then God is out of sight and consequently, out of mind.
Though prayer is direct, immediate, and quite literally in our hands as we need only fold, raise, extend, or sit on them, we still can’t find the time to talk to God. And if the church is like the post office, then it is old- fashioned and too slow when attempting to make connections. Still, though encouraged to self-address our communications to God, we fold up the church bulletin and plan to send this.
Our rationale: We don’t know what to say. But, aren’t those stories, songs, prayers, and letters a reminder for us to keep in touch? Don’t they require a response—a nodding of the head, a chiming in, or an Amen?
We also say that we cannot hear God, that God doesn’t talk to us, which suggests that God does not want to keep in touch with us. So, we don’t pray. But, is it not better said that we have written on these invitations, God’s letters three little words: Return to Sender?
* This article was previously shared with the readers of Coracle, a blog hosted by Smyth & Helwys, on January 6. 2016.