Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
Throughout my ministry, I have had periods where I struggled to find time to pray. This was especially true when I was serving as a hospital chaplain. I was so busy with the business of providing pastoral care and praying with others that I forgot to leave time for me to pray with God. So that year during Lent, I decided to reboot my prayer life by spending the last 15 minutes of the day in silent prayer and reflection. I would go down to the chapel, often dragging my colleague with me as a prayer partner to hold me accountable and help me enter into that silence with God as I let the day’s events wash through me.
One day, a Muslim doctor came in with his prayer rug. As he softly chanted his prayers, his devotion, his discipline, his deep faith in God strengthened my own prayers, my own faith. It was an amazing experience to encounter God together in prayer. There in that chapel, a Muslim and two Christians each following faithfully our own tradition, our spiritual journeys became one. For that brief ten minutes, we shared one path meeting the same God who knows and loves us all.
Years later, I was walking the streets of New York City, and I encountered a homeless man on the street who in the fading light of winter lit a candle and laid out his prayer rug to say his evening prayers.
I wonder, who is more faithful in God’s eyes? The doctor who prays five times a day or the chaplains who pray for everyone else but barely pray themselves? The homeless man kneeling in prayer on the hard, dirty sidewalk or the Episcopal priest rushing by too busy to say her evening prayers?
The doctor, the homeless man, these Muslim men of faith share the same deep love of God as you and me. Two men who pray not once, but five times a day.
I wish we everyone could be blessed with such love, such devotion, such discipline in our prayer lives. Perhaps then the world would learn to love one another as God loves us.
But recent events in Christ Church, New Zealand remind us that we are far from being the beloved community that God envisioned.
Once again, the rise of hatred, violence, and fear stand as enemies of the cross of Christ threatening to rip apart the bonds of our shared humanity. And so dear friends, it is time to stand firm with our Muslim brothers and sisters and double down in prayer.
“For prayer is at the heart of our relationship with God. In our prayer life, we encounter the divine and allow the love of God to transform us…through prayer we get in touch with our true desires so we can live more intentionally and effectively Christ’s way of love in the world.” (Meeting Christ in Prayer)
But if you’re like me, you may find that prayer doesn’t always come easy. When prayer is a struggle, we may think, “I’m doing this wrong.” or we may be tempted to give up. Don’t give up. Prayer doesn’t always come easy or feel great. In fact it often doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is you keep showing up. And if you can’t do it five times a day like our Muslim brothers and sisters, then just start with once.
When God seems hidden or silent. When the terrifying darkness descends. When you feel lost or confused or bored or exhausted – lean into the discomfort. Double down in prayer…don’t give up.
“Prayer is both a relationship and a journey, and like any relationship or journey, it has its highs and lows. We often would prefer to avoid life’s suffering and difficulties, but they are a part of life. And if we are to have a full prayer life…then we have to bring our full selves to prayer.”(Meeting Christ in Prayer)
In prayer, life becomes deeper, richer. Through prayer our gratitude grows and things that once were obstacles shift. Prayer roots us in the love of God that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:7) Prayer enables us to lift up our friends, our neighbors, even our enemies and those who persecute us. Prayer prepares us to face the ultimate trials and tribulations of life.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom then shall I be afraid?
One thing have I asked of the Lord; one thing I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” (Psalm 27)