And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey….” (Luke 9:1-3)
I am a professional pray-er. I am paid to pray for others and with others and expected to do it well. Since I’ve been doing this a long time and since St. John’s is a spiritual center, a number of people come to visit with me to pray and to discuss their prayer lives. Lay people, priests, and even a bishop or two along the way, have come to me for direction and coaching in their prayer lives.
I’m also expected to have a substantial and meaningful personal prayer life. Who wants to visit with a prayer coach who isn’t pretty familiar with prayer himself? Because of the way I am wired (read obsessive compulsive), matters of discipline come pretty easily to me. It is not a hard thing for me to rise earlier than the rest of the world and devote myself to prayer as I begin my day.
But, as a professional pray-er and someone who has a substantial personal prayer life, I am brought up a little short by this gospel reading. Take nothing for your journey…. I confess that most of my prayer life involves asking for more rather than less. God has put me on a journey, you too of course, and I spend much of my time asking for more so that I might be more effective on the journey. I don’t ask for more stuff, mind you. It’s never occurred to me to ask for more cars, or more equipment, or more money. But I am constantly asking for more patience, more understanding, more creativity, more talent, more ability to persuade, more personal tools to handle what is mine to handle. It hits me that I’ve probably been doing all that wrong.
Take nothing for your journey…. Could it be that a better prayer is to ask for less or even nothing at all? Jesus tells his disciples to go about their ministry empty-handed. Maybe I am supposed to enter my day empty instead of full. If I am always asking for more, even if I’m asking for more good things like patience or understanding or talent, I’m actually stuck in a pretty greedy and self-centered place. As long as I am asking for more, even if I am asking for more good things, I am focused primarily on how I will use more of whatever I am asking for. If I ask for more patience, I fall into treating it like a tool I have acquired and mean to use it for what I want to accomplish. That’s greedy and self-centered.
What would change if my goal in my prayers was to enter the day empty rather than full? First, it might take my attention off me and what I think I need to be doing. It might free me up to see what God thinks I might need. It might take my sights off the world as something for me to control and manipulate. It might let me see the world as a place God has created and is re-creating daily. It might let me see myself as a beloved child of God rather than a machine that I have to keep full of fuel so that I can accomplish more. It might make things lighter rather than heavier. It might allow me to become a true disciple.
Take a deep breath and hold it. How does that feel? Release that deep breath and consider how that feels. Granted, one cannot release a deep breath unless one has taken it first. But doesn’t it feel good to let that breath out? Can you feel the pressures and anxieties flowing out with the breath? The deeper I exhale, the more deeply I can draw the next breath. Indeed, the more I absolutely need the next breath. Maybe there is a lesson there for prayer in general.
We are all put on a journey, lots of them. God seems to invite us to go on those journeys empty rather than full. I want to take my tool box with me so I can fix whatever I come across but God calls me to leave things behind and to discover what is provided for me along the way.
I don’t need all that stuff I keep praying for. I need simply to trust that God has called me and will provide for me. Take nothing into the day and see what happens. That is trust. That is faith.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Stewardship Meetings in October
Sunday, October 4, at noon
Thursday, October 8, at 5:00
Sunday, October 11, at noon
Tuesday, October 13, at noon
Sunday, October 18, at noon
As we make our financial pledge to the church for the following year, we go through an important spiritual practice. We consider our resources in gratitude. We make a conscious sacrifice for the good of the community. We decide to live with a little less and come to find God providing true life for us. Each year we are all asked to consider the percentage of our resources that we give to God’s work in the world. And we are asked to grow, to increase our giving percentage. It’s a spiritual practice with dramatic and tangible effects in our lives and the parish. Please plan to attend one of the Stewardship Meetings which will last 30-45 minutes. Hear about the financial health of the parish, our vision for 2016, and pick up your pledge packets. Make your commitment so that we might grow together. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.