In the days following my accident in February, I mentioned to friends & family that I was planning to read and pray whilst I was out of action. It was overwhelming to receive a torrent of support and care. One family member wrote back to me, ‘”You rest and leave the praying to us”. This got me thinking (as these things do) about prayer and rest. It was a lovely thought, well meant with love and care, particularly recognising that praying is part of my job. But underlying that thought could be the view that prayer is by nature hard work and not contained within ‘rest’. I’dlike to challenge that assumption.
Prayer sometimes is hard work. There are times to ‘press in’, persevere’ or even ‘travail’ in prayer and it takes discipline to choose not to do things that seem easy in order to do things that will ultimately bring life. But prayer is more than that; it’s relating to God, and so there are always times too to rest with him in prayer.
If we see prayer as ‘hard work’, then when we’re tired, drained, stressed, frustrated, angry or ill, we won’t pray. These are the very times when we most need to pray; not necessarily to move mountains by faith or overcome world poverty but to draw near to God, to ‘soak in His love’, ‘rest in His Presence’, ‘hide under the shadow of his wings’.
Through my short season of enforced rest, I explored new forms of prayer that are the opposite of stress. I found that as I recovered and rested, it’s God the Father who I found it most naturally to turn to, resting and being restored in His love.
In particular on the day of my operation I found that prayer to bless others flowed really naturally and effortlessly whilst I lay in hospital wards. As I woke up from my general anaesthetic, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk easily and thinking straight was beyond me. But I could pray. I lay there praying “Lord, your Spirit and your kingdom are in me, please let them flow out and bless the other people recovering all around me’ I didn’t/couldn’t do anything else, I just let God flow out from me.
This week Lent started, a time of discipline, reflection, realigning and overcoming evil. We can see all of that as hard work, but it all leads to receiving more of God’s life into and through our lives.
God at work, in response to our prayers, is so much more preferable and powerful than us striving and using human effort to try and extend His kingdom ourselves.