My daughter and I were flying back home from North Carolina. Things had started out well. It was a clear day and we saw much of the beauty of my home state as we travelled. As the Great Smokey Mountains passed below us, we began to be jostled about by a cold front that was marching from Tennessee toward the Atlantic beaches. Jostling turned to pummeling as we held onto our seat harnesses to keep from banging our heads on the windows of the plane. Many of us have experienced a difficult flight or two, but this flight was becoming increasingly problematic, the primary problem being that I was the pilot.
The wind and the shaking continued throughout the trip, and, after five hours in the air, I was relieved to be lined up for a direct approach to runway 2 at Nashville’s John C. Tune airport. Just as we were about to touch down on the welcoming asphalt a gust of wind picked up the plane and slammed us into the ground. We rebounded from the runway, hit the pavement again and then bounced higher into the air. Often in a situation like this a plane eventually lands nose first. This is not good for passengers or for the aircraft.
I heard myself pray aloud, “Jesus, help us!”, pushed the throttle to full power, and we muddled around the landing pattern one more time and landed uneventfully.
“Jesus, help us.” I’m not saying that my prayer was the cause of our successful landing, but I’m not saying it wasn’t. Actually, I prayed before the trip began for a safe journey. In fact, I pray a lot; especially when I’m troubled. However, I also go through periods of time when I forget to pray. Our plane trip can be seen as a metaphor for life. Sometimes prayer is reserved for periods of difficulty and stress. What part should prayer take in the life of a disciple? How should we pray? How can our church family be encouraged to pray?
One thing that is clear is that Jesus intends for His disciples to pray. The most obvious indication of this truth is His teaching about The Lord’s Prayer. A second indication is the example Jesus set. The New Testament records 25 times Jesus prayed. We can probably all agree that prayer is indeed an important part of the Christian life.
Father Wesley and I have been talking—and praying–about these things over the past few weeks. We want to offer our church family an opportunity to experiment with ways of praying that may be new to some of us. Beginning on Wednesday, August 7, we will offer a 6:00 PM service which will consist of The Holy Eucharist and a time of community prayer. (In other words you will not need to listen to a mid-week sermon.) During the time of prayer, we will be learning to use new prayer practices. At our first meeting we will use Anglican prayer beads to facilitate our practice. This service will last about 45 minutes.
When we pray we are participating in a mystery. One way to think of prayer is that it is the means by which the resources of heaven are applied to the things of earth. I don’t know about you, but I want all the help that God can offer!