“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” Colossians 4:2
i have been contemplating prayer and kneeling lately. how, as children, we kneel at the bedside to say our prayers with parents guiding us along the way. you remember. “now i lay me down to sleep…” and so on. and then as adolescents, we are either rapidly walking away from the Lord and these thoughtful prayers, or we are still running to meet him, but usually not kneeling. as adults, it seems that most of us continue in this vein of not kneeling. our bones creak and groan in protest upon getting down, and we feel incapable of getting ourselves upright again. age seems to take precedence over humility in prayer.
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grown down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 4:14-19
throughout the bible, we are constantly reminded of those who knelt in prayer. scattered within the book of Matthew, several folks knelt before Jesus before asking that he take away their illness. they humbly asked, not only with their words, but through their actions. Daniel knelt three times a day in prayer to the Lord. Even Jesus kneels with his face bowed to the ground in order to speak to his Father, God. how did we get so far away from this? and more importantly, how do we get back? because, believe me, saying that you would like to kneel in prayer, and actually doing it, are two completely different beasts! trust me, i’ve been trying lately.
about a week ago, as i was bicycling my way home from a morning ride through city park, i found myself right where i needed to be-on ursulines in front of the st. ann shrine/temple/worship center. (really, call it what you will). i have ridden past it so many times and always feel drawn towards it, like a moth to the flame. and, lo and behold, it was actually open on that tuesday morning. i hopped off my bike, walked inside, and felt silence, so oppressive, surrround me. that is until the keyholder informed me they were closing early from the marsh fire haze that had settled upon the city. but she did allow me some (albeit rushed) time to pray. i knelt on a raised slab of concrete and silently prayed to the Father, our Creator. i was calm, collected. a newfound peace had settled over my shoulders like a well worn shawl. i felt everything. the concrete digging into sweaty ankles and knees. the grit, unsettling. the birds singing. the wind. and that glorious, beautiful silence. then i hurried to get up and out and on my way, so the kind woman could lock the gates against us all for the rest of the day. that moment was life-changing in a way i wouldn’t realize for about a week.
fast forward a few days to zach and i doing our daily common prayer (from the book Common Prayer-A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro) [apologies for the shameless plug]. i asked if he would like to kneel to pray, and he reluctanty agreed. i don’t believe it was because he did not want to, but because he falls into that “i’m not as young as i used to be” group. we both knelt and prayed our daily prayer. getting up, of course, was the hard part. but in that span of 30 or so minutes, i felt humbled and thankful and alive. i felt like we were finally honoring the Father, the way you would when you stand to hear the Scriptures (or to recite them). we haven’t knelt for common prayer since. i keep hoping that we will, but then i remind myself that i am indeed, not leading my example.
and so, my mind kept reeling. this past weekend, tropical storm lee was dropping buckets of water upon us. naturally, we were confined to the house so as to keep from melting. and something strange happened. i was looking at the bath tub and thinking how i had just cleaned it, but it could use another scrub. which led me to eye the toilet suspiciously, and with disdain that it too needed some attention. and then it struck me…..why do i loathe these tasks so much? what is it about them that makes me wait until the final hour to clean them? the answer that occurred was startling and insightful. i have to get on my knees to complete them. wait, what?! i don’t want to get on my knees to complete these tasks, but i do; i want to get on my knees to pray, yet i do not. did you get that? it led me to thinking about service, being a servant. menial tasks. shoe shiners. toilet scrubbers. floor washers. pedicurists. all of these tasks put a person on their knees, humbling themselves before another, and doing the best job they know how to do. isn’t this what Jesus asks of all of us? to become the least. and that the least, shall become great. and so, in this discovery, i have realized that perhaps these moments when i am already on my knees, shouldn’t i devote these moments to prayer too? to really pray without ceasing. to find joy in the tasks God has set before me, no matter how small in my eyes. that in completing these tasks, we are not humiliated, but servicing others before the Lord.
“In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” 1 Timothy 2:8
Lord, thank you for teaching me about humility every day. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to utilize moments that used to be troublesome, and turn them into something joyful. Thank you for your gifts and for allowing me to count and thank you in turn for them. And Lord, help me to kneel. To honor you in the way that i worship you. To seek a more humbling way into your kingdom and to recognize others around me who are kneeling too. Remind me to thank them. Amen.
Descending to Ascend….