Fellowship with the Spirit (aka Prayer)

couple on bench watiching sunset

Throughout his letters we hear Paul praying. In Romans 8 he comes to his key thoughts about prayer. A few simple sentences that say so much. To me, that say it all.

Paul has prayers of thanksgiving in his letters. They all begin and end with thanksgiving and a blessing. He prays his converts will be able to meet the challenges to their new faith. He prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with them. You might even say that his letters are at their heart and soul, letters about prayer. Prayer as our relationship with God. Prayer as accessing the God-life within us and without. Prayer as giving ourselves over to the Christ we have received. About living the Christ-life prayerfully. With attention to the Christ we have received.

In this modern world, prayer is a difficult subject to broach. Not because praying itself is difficult. But because, as we see in Paul’s letters, it is easy. And like everything else Paul writes, prayer is about having faith. Having faith that we are heard, that we don’t have to ‘do it right’ because there is no ‘right way’ to pray; and that the Spirit of the Christ life we share in faith, is also the Spirit that prays in us. The Spirit that invites us to pray. The Spirit that is always praying within us. Drawing us out and out and out.

Over the ages prayer has been preached, like the faith-life of Jesus Christ, with indomitable hurtles to achieve and cross so that one might feel ‘successful’ in prayer. Here in Paul we cut to the chase. We come to the heart of the matter.

Paul counsels his converts to pray always. For in this praying always they/we put on the mind of Christ. In prayer we tap into, if you will, the Christ whose Spirit continually prays in us.

The Spirit prays in us when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly.

Prayer, like Jesus Christ, saves us. Pray opens us to the ever-available Spirit. It is a great comfort to know that when I cannot pray, and there are times when life so overwhelms that I have no words, I know that I can sit in the silence of my soul and let the Spirit speak for me. Just like in the psalms which I reach for often, this spirit knows every human emotion, feeling, desire and even mean and horrid thought I think. It is a great assurance to know that it is this Spirit of Christ which has the power to resonate with my own. On Good Friday we will hear Jesus cry out from the cross, a lost and forsaken question to the Father he knew was his “Abba Father”.  By Jesus’ unselfconscious crying out to his Father, he became broken open to his Father’s saving grace and action in his life. We follow Jesus Christ in this as well. He shows us we too can say anything to God. We can even doubt God. If we feel abandoned by God, so did he.

When we pray “Abba Father” we are reassured that not only can and does the Spirit pray within us, but that God will not refuse anything he can give. In prayer God turns everything to our good because he cooperates with those who love him. Once again, it is love that is the essential thing. In our faith, in our comings and goings, in our activities, our stance toward one another and to God, and in praying. Have you told God that you love him today?  While I ask and while I knock, I try to make sure that I don’t treat God like a cash cow.

Paul’s words in Romans 8 speak for themselves. They don’t need a lot of words heaped upon them to take meaning. They are sentences that we can take to heart, to memory and carry with us like a prayer as we go through our day.

Our day, knowing that it is Christ who pleads for us at the right hand of the Father. The Father who hears us as he heard his son, who refuses us nothing and turns everything to good.

 

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In The Waters of the Jordan

Reflections Photograph by Cathie Horrell

There is some thought that perhaps Jesus had studied with the monks at Qumran or been a follower of John the Baptist, before that day he appeared on the bank of the Jordan River, awaiting John’s baptism. He may have joined John at some point, perhaps to continue his education, to be schooled by his slightly older cousin. But we do know from the gospel accounts that he even went to John and submitted to John’s baptism. Was it because he felt he needed to repent or could it have been the opposite. That he believed. That he saw John’s baptism as a ritual, an entry point into solidarity with what John was saying. And it seems that that experience changed him. That something happened that day in the waters of Jordan that would set Jesus on his path, knowing his own mission and place in the sacred order of things that sent him out to the wilderness to think about what had just happened to him. It must have been something profound to have sent him off by himself to contemplate what his life was going to be about. To wrestle with the wild beasts and be attended to by angels. Those same creatures that attended at his birth. He had come to John to become part of something. And that experience ‘baptized’ Jesus with a new and radical way of seeing what needed to be changed, renewed in the faithful of Israel. It seems that it was in the waters of the Jordan River that Jesus religious education, upbringing and his awareness of the political/religious climate of his country collided in such a significant way that from this he saw what his mission and destiny was and would be. For certainly, Jesus life until now had led him to this day when another Spirit would come upon him, as the evangelists portray it, and he would become aware that he was to be about his other Father’s business. In the waters of the Jordan Jesus was empowered to shepherd Israel to another return, this time the return to the true meaning of its faith and to the one God, who Jesus now addressed as Abba Father. The intimacy of that day would never leave him. The effect of that day drove him off into the wilderness to a lonely place, there to wrestle with its meaning and to accept his commissioning.