There is a tendency to make everything we do more complicated.
If you watch a child at play, you realize quickly that we as adults are immune to being caught up in something so joyfully pointless as playing a game. We're looking at the clock. We're thinking about what we need to do. We're thinking about the anxieties of the day. We lose the simplicity of the play. As a parent, I'm guilty of this. "Only one more game, because..."
...it's almost bedtime.
...Daddy needs to finish something up.
...we have dishes to do.
I'm not playing a game at that point, I'm filling some time. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
Even prayer - we've made prayer so complex that we have convinced ourselves that if it prayer isn't said in a certain way on a certain day then it doesn't "count."
We need to revisit the childlike question "Does play count?" Is there some column on a spiritual ledger sheet that gains a point in our favor when we play? Does a child worry about playing correctly?
No. So why do we take the very building blocks of our spirituality - prayer, for example - and consume them under the exacting and strangling rigor of a scientific method that longs to create formulas for success?
I will say that as we begin to practice prayer it is good to have a format, but that is simply to get our "praying legs" underneath us. Eventually, we move to understanding that God is always with us and within us (see John 14) and therefore prayer is simply paying attention to our traveling companion in a focused and open way.
I wanted to share with you the words of writer Richard Rohr, especially because we often pray for God to "be here" or we "invite" God to be there. We have to understand that this isn't constructive theology. If we are followers of Christ, at peace with God, He doesn't require an invite. He is present. With that in mind, here's a view on prayer from Fr. Rohr:
God is already present. God’s Spirit is dwelling within you. You cannot search for what you already have. You cannot talk God into “coming” into you by longer and more urgent prayers. All you can do is become quieter, smaller, and less filled with your own self and your constant flurry of ideas and feelings. Then God will be obvious in the very now of things, and in the simplicity of things.
I welcome you to practice a simpler prayer as you end this week. Quiet down, focus on breathing, and listen for the God who dwells within. Take your time, be patient, and know that if you are there He is there.
Then - play.