Art by He Qi
This week in our Lenten journey, we’ll be talking about Service. What I like about Richard Foster’s words in the devotional selection for today, is that service needs to be in a symbiotic relationship with spirituality. There is no doubt that spirituality, represented by one on one time with God, is the “one necessary thing” but the true manifestation of that time is in serving others. The story of Mary and Martha shows us how one cannot be isolated from the other: the women were sisters after all.
By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. [Luke 10:40-42a]
In another interesting lesson I found online (Lesson 52, Bible.org), the writer builds on two questions from First Things First by Stephen Covey. He asks the questions this way: “What is the one activity that you know if you did superbly well and consistently would have significant positive results in your walk with God?” Then, “If you know this would make such a significant difference, why did you not do it this past week?” I believe the young people would yell “Booyah!” which is a bit of slang for “gotcha!”
So, let’s put these two ideas together, if service is best done out of relationship with Christ (more than likely through prayer), and if we prayed consistently and authentically, we would indeed experience significant results in our walk with God and undoubtedly, choose to serve more consistently as well. Why don’t we do it?
I cannot speak for you. I can only confess my own sin, for it is, I suppose, my story to tell.
I don’t pray privately much because it’s amorphous (another word from the Thesaurus: blobby!). Prayer is just so: private and lonely; there is no one who knows if I pray or not, or if I talk out loud or silently, or if my mind wanders and creates a menu for dinner. Prayer, when it’s truly just me and God, requires concentration, relaxation, and intent, all rolled up into one. There are no benchmarks. There is no one to say I’m doing better or not. There are no fireworks for the well-said prayer or the prayer that struck home, engaging God in a decision to change circumstances. I can’t measure prayer. Oh I suppose, I could monitor my time, but truthfully, I’d have to filter out the wasted minutes, the distracted candle-lighting or wrapping up in an afghan or escorting the persistent, playful dog out of the room.
And maybe, if I was really honest, maybe I’m not even praying. It’s easier to read a prayer or read scripture. It’s easier to write prayer or blog. It’s easier to think about praying or to think about God. It’s easier to do anything but center down.
I’m sure, in some ways, this is why Eastern religions may have a little edge on us Christian types. There are practices and breathing and instruction that is aimed toward emptying the mind. Sometimes I wonder if I should try some of the Catholic practices, would the rote repetition settle me into an inner place where the Holy Spirit and I could really commune?
I’m a woman of flash prayers and thanksgivings and even, service. I am a woman who can pray in public with intensity and love for my God. I can gather others into prayer. I am a woman of the Word for I find much solace in its depths. But I am not a woman of private prayer.
Going back to Stephen Covey, do I believe it will change my life? I do, or at least, I suspect. But maybe, secretly, the changes are too slow for my 21st century-cultured mind. Perhaps I am still looking for results too soon. I have trouble with the long vision. And yet, here I am, almost forty years a believer, and still I can’t pray with consistency, alone?
I know, I know. This post is supposed to be about service, but my spirit is quickened to consider the importance of service growing out of spirituality. I “do” or “serve” because God leads me to do it. I serve because God is present out there as well as in here. And when I pray, I serve. That’s the idea.
Whether it’s learning a sport or a martial art or flying a plane, automatic body/mind memory only comes from repetition, practice, and consistency. If there is any time to practice, it’s during Lent. Now. Now.
Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done in Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
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