The Pastor in Praye---SQUIRREL!
It's okay to defy the stars.
In the universe of the pastor, there are constellations that sit brightly in the sky modeling and directing all that we are to do and to be.
We’re well aware, of course, of Spurgeonis Majoris, shaped like a pulpit, reminding us of the high calling that is preaching. Many of you have seen The Big Piper. It’s is shaped like a convicting index finger and can be seen on the horizon of every sea shore wherever any of us might be tragically tempted to gather some sea shells. The Mueller Lights is a phenomenon of bright luminescence shaped like giant praying hands which settles over pastors’ homes in the early morning hours when they are deeply engaged in heartfelt prayer. And then, of course, there is Kellerion, a constellation curiously only visible from the large urban centers of the world.
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These constellations are so prominent that pastors cannot imagine life or ministry guided by any other lights.
Except there must be clouds in my night sky. Clearly this is the case with regard to prayer. I’d love to say that you will find me on my knees every morning. I’d love to regale you with stories of how the money I needed and prayed for on Tuesday showed up in an anonymous envelope on my doorstep on Wednesday. The truth is that I struggle to be vigilant in this kind of earnest and faithful praying. When someone says that you can tell the spiritual vitality of a man by the quality of his prayers, I feel like a spiritual hamster. And I feel guilt. Tons of it.
A conference speaker I once heard claimed that the average pastor prays no more than five minutes each day. In my case, I’d like to count the prayers I utter for God to move the car in front of me or to keep the light green just a bit longer. But I’m pretty sure the conference speaker had something else in mind. And by his standard, he’s probably correct. We don’t pray much.
When my guilt takes root I’m moved to try harder, which for most pastors means buying, and sometimes reading, books. Luther promised me a simple way to pray.1 Tim Keller promised to guide me into an experience of awe and intimacy with God.2 That all sounded pretty sweet and so I read the books and learned that what works great for Martin and Tim leaves Randy exhausted.
The constellations cause me to question what’s wrong with me. What’s wrong with us? Maybe nothing, really. Maybe we’re just different. And that thought is liberating.
I’ve been helped in thinking about this by my good friend and mentor Larry Edison.
Larry is a retired pastor who will tell you that he earned his M.Div. from Westminster Seminary, his D.Min. from Covenant Seminary, and his A.D.H.D. from his parents. Larry prays but not in the way others tell him to pray. To break from the standard and expected patterns has not been easy for him. He’s tried to do it the “right” way. But he has learned that though there is a way that seems right to many, in the end it is death for those with atypical neurology. We’re all different, and that’s okay.
Larry prays when driving. He prays when he’s walking. He stops reading or listening to music to pray. He never closes his eyes or kneels. He talks to God about the things that come to mind, the things he sees, the things he reads. Life is a dialog of prayer for him. He may not pray for me every Tuesday morning at 5AM with his eyes closed and his knees aching, but I know he prays for me when he thinks of me, and that God hears him.
You see, God has put more constellations in the sky than we might know. For me, Larry’s one of them. (He’s compiled some of his observations in a remarkably helpful and free book. I encourage you to check it out.3)
Of course our problem with prayer might be spiritual or theological. For that we need immersion in the glory, grace, and generosity of God. We need safe people with whom we can share our doubts, our questions, our fears, and our concerns. What I don’t need is renewed pressure to adopt a method that has in the past proven to not fit who I am.
A diagnosis does not excuse us to sin, but neither does it condemn us to a second tier status. You may not have ADHD, but you are who God made you to be. Prayer is a delight and a joy when its freely engaged. Learn to pray, but in your own way.
The Mueller Lights may not find you if you are praying in your car for the person you just thought about when you drove by the hospital.
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“A Simple Way to Pray” is public domain and available for purchase and for free in numerous formats. Luther wrote this in response to his barber’s request.
Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (United States: Viking, 2014).