A Responding Heart in a Reactionary World

Prayer was the means by which Jews stayed attuned to the concept that all of life is sacred.
— Marvin Wilson

Yesterday we said prayer is a moment, the moment God looks at us, and we awaken to his gaze.   We realize we mean something eternal when his eyes are on us.   This is the genesis of prayer.   When we catch him looking at us we want to dance, live, shout, skip, laugh....  The prayer movement begins in a prayer moment.   We have been given two eyes so we can observe God, see God.   We have been given two ears, so we can hear God.   Our eyes and ears are tools for reflection.  But we have also been given a tongue, as a means of expressing and responding. 

Prayer is response  Prayer is what happened after our lungs filled with the breathe of God, his whisper animating our soul.  God breathed into us and we responded with breath, and breath was praise.  This is why the Psalter says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."  Prayer is the moment we realize our very breath holds the kiss of God and in exhale we give it back to him.   Prayer is the movement of a soul vaulting into a summersaults, skipping a pitter-patter dance of I-am-loved.   Each breath carts its own awe and packs a miraculous wonder, for in each breath a prayer is uttered, a prayer responding to the very life of God.   

            God breathed, then we breathe. 
            God walks into the garden, we walk with God in the garden.
            God speaks, we answer.  

This is prayer—breathing, walking, answering.

We watch prayer unfold from the first pages of Scripture as a call-and-response.   God calls, we respond.

The Prayer of Naming Children.   First, Elohim gives Eve a son.  Then, she responds with worship, “I’ve created a man with YHWH.”  Eve is the first human to call on the name of God, and invoke his character in history--Adam, Cain, Abel, and Seth never say Elohim's name.  Eve discovers her biblical voice when she responds to God’s activity in her life.  And her voice reveals God’s name to us, reveals his name to us in something as natural as childbirth.   

God breathes life into Eve's womb, Eve responds with a prayer, "Cain," meaning "forged with YHWH."  Every time she calls his name, she is remembering YHWH.   She takes the most meaningful part of her existence, her son, and makes his name and memory a prayer to her Creator.     

 The Prayer of Labor.   Cain labors in fields, God breaths life into his labors in the fields and Cain's prayer is to place some of his produce on an altar and give it back to God.  God breathes produce into Cain's life, Cain exhales this back to God (we'll save the rejection of Cain's offering discussion for another time and another place).  The point is, somehow he just knows that humans interact with God at the point that God initiates them.  God blesses Abel with domesticated flocks of sheep.    Abel responds by offering back to God the choicest meats and cuts.    

At its most primitive place prayer is not merely an hour set aside to mumble a slew of words into thin air hoping that some of them stick to the walls of heaven.   Prayer notices the crops are producing and remembers God.   Prayer notices the flocks are growing and remembers God.  Prayer notices the family addition and remembers God.    

Photographs in the 10 Days of Lent devotional come from various locations within San Francisco's Presidio

Photographs in the 10 Days of Lent devotional come from various locations within San Francisco's Presidio

Prayer is what happens when we see an ultrasound and hear the thump-thump of life inside our womb and remember God.  Prayer is what happens when a baby giggles and we remember God.  Prayer is what happens when we sink our spoon into a sourdough bread bowl of San Francisco clam chowder and acknowledge the steamy goodness as the residue of God’s voice in the world.  Prayer is what happens when we put in a 40-hour work week, retrieve our paycheck and have enough presence of mind to wonder where our gifts and talents and breath came from ... and remember God by offering some of the very stuff back to God that he has been so generous toward us with.  Prayer is what happens when we look to God as we grieve over our beloved pet in a back-yard makeshift cemetery, while prayerlessness is what happens when we react.    Everything, absolutely everything becomes the stuff of prayer--tears, laughs, bewilderment, Monday drabs, and even Midnight snacks--when it responds to God.


“Prayer is response to God’s goodness and grace in Jesus Christ.”
— Karl Barth

Read Genesis 4 noting how the chapter bookends "calling on the name of the Lord" and how the early humans interacted with God.

 Write down some of the activity of God in your life.   


Respond to one of these movements of God in your life with either words of gratitude or gifts to God that demonstrate a response to what God has done for you.