What Prayers and Purrs Have in Common
We have a cat; Oliver is his name. We rescued him from our church’s community garden when he was a kitten. With Heather and Oliver it was love at first sight. From day 1 we noticed our furry family member’s temperament. He was playful, social, and cuddly. Thankfully he has never lost this; Oliver is a lover. I love nothing more after a difficult day to lie down and get a face-ful of feline love. His love is always accompanied by a steady full bodied purr. Purring is a sign of joy and satisfaction.
In Psalm 1:2 we read “but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The word “meditate” may invoke the image of someone sitting Indian style in silence with their eyes closed. And for many that maybe what it is. But the word in Hebrew, “hagah,” is very different. It is also used in scripture to describe the growls of a lion before its prey. Not the warning kind of growl that you may hear from your neighbor’s dog as if to say “don’t come any closer; you belong on the other side of the street” But a growl of elation after the thrill of the chase and in anticipation of the fresh meal. In Eat This Book Eugene Peterson likens it to the purr of a cat and the playful yelps of his dog as he gnaws on a fresh bone.
What if our prayers were like Oliver’s full-bodied purrs as he climbs into my lap and finds his rest in my bosom? What if as Christian disciples our prayer was less about our desire to ace the math test or for our Aunt Sally to not be sick anymore but more about a deep yearning to be with God? What if instead of praying for the things we need to live, we realize we need prayer to live? What if instead of being a means to an end, our prayer was an end in itself?
Prayer is so much more than conversation with God—it is communion with God. What is the difference? Communion can include conversation but not always. It can also include an embrace, a knowing glance, and shared tears. I have been in ministry situations when I have sat in silence holding a hand simply because in some situations there is absolutely nothing to say. This can also be the case in our time with God. Sometimes silence is golden, and less is more.
I think sometimes prayer has become just one more thing to put on our checklist in our busy world. In a world of takers, God has become just another service provider—a place to go to fulfill our desires and get our latest fix. When we do this, not only do we sell God short; we sell ourselves short. You see we were created to yearn for God—or as many theologians and writers have reflected on, we are all born with a God-shaped hole. And in the incarnation of Jesus Christ God reveals himself to us, He shows us that he too wants to be in relationship with us, He in fact makes this relationship possible.
I would like to challenge you all to me more prayerful in all things, beginning with worship. As you recite the liturgy, linger on the words that God’s people have spoken for millennia; savor them like you are speaking them for the first time. As you hear God’s word read from scripture and proclaimed as the Gospel, remember those words are for YOU, a gift from the Creator of the universe. As your pastor places the bread or wafer in your hand, feel it and taste it, let it sink in that in that moment you are at the Lord’s table receiving His life-giving body and blood.
And between Sundays we remain in His presence. Look for sacred reminders of that and don’t try to dull your desire for God by filling your life with idols. Instead give the PERFECT God thanks that He has filled your life with GOOD things. Open your mind and heart to the ways that God is speaking to you through others and through experiences. Open scripture and let the Holy Spirit reveal to you anew the grace and mercy of God.