Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14
Do you think prayer should be like this? I feel as if we need moments like the ones that these preists experienced on this day. The priests have lots to do, spiritual stuff, busy work, dealing with the rituals and the people and the plans and everything else...life is too much work and everyone knows it...
It becomes easy to wrap up our identity in the the things we do all day.
Even prayer can become a burden when we aren't careful. We have trained Christians to pray in a certain way, at least it seems to me that...95% of prayer talk is about requests and attempts to move God's hand to our desires. I get that I do it all the time. And of course we should bring our requests boldly before our God, he invited us to do just that in Hebrews.
But, I can tell ya from experince that it's easy to fall into a groove of monotony and confusion when our prayers are limited in this way. The other thing is that while without question God answers prayers, doesn't it seem honest to say, not like I'd hoped or expected.
Why shy away from that? How many times have you prayed sincire prayers that seem to be appropriatlly directed and with all the right loving motives only to find that the person didn't get better, the money didn't come, you lost the job, things didn't go your way. What now? I can easily walk away from prayer frustrated and tempted to "fake" my spirituality.
"God works in mysterious ways."
"Some of his greatest gifts are unaswered prayers." - that's not bible, that's Garth.
"When God closes a door we look for a window."
"He must have needed another angel"
Whatever. Ugh. (Advice to Christians: These sort of responses force the person we are talking with to extend grace to us...isn't that backwards? Just saying.)
Personally I spent a load of time in this weird cycle of prayer. It wasn't until I found myself in a crisis of faith (which seem to happen to me far more often than my doctrine suggested) where I was really questioning everything I've set my hand to, all the busy work, the countless prayers, meetings, rituals, spiritual rigmarole and still...the pain...the suffering...the lack...increases! I'm over two decades in and my sincire efforts at prayer and service have only caused me to see more struggle, more apathy, more idolotry. Buttsmell! I can't stand it.
But, there is something about being at a total loss that is transformative if we'll allow it. I first learned that when I submitted to God will in my life and was empowered by his Spirit. Turns out that sort of crisis reappears throughout my pain and confusion.
And...yet, somehow, I've found the Temple. Today, my temple time is what I think most represents the deepest truths of prayer in my life. I come to the temple tired, longing for a break, frustrated at my own efferts or lack, loaded with the burdens of the people I love, knowing that I don't have the ability to make things better for them, when I come to the temple I come beat down, exhausted, angry, fearful, confused, doubtful, uncertain and axious...and then the glory falls.
And I like the priests before me am left on my face with this understanding that is bigger than all of my pettiness and bitchery.
Dan the victim falls away.
Dan the poser quiets his voice.
Dan the elder is made like a child.
The part of Dan that bears the Spirit, the part of Dan that carries the Image, the part of Dan that is an eternal child of this God who loves everyone becomes a part of that holy wholeness and simply basks without requests or agenda in the loving ocean of God's grace.
My fears and struggles and frustrations are taken up and swilred into all of this and somehow I know that everything is okay, that I am loved and that's enough. That's the temple, that's prayer for me these days.
I need not go to Jerusalem to find it. It moves with me, I need only bow and I'll be emptied, poured out, laid bare before his glory and then comes the filling...and I know that I know....
“He is good;
his love endures forever.”