There is no excuse for my bad manners towards someone on Sunday evening. A friend in the church could tell that I was rather stressed out and offered to pray with me. I turned her down, quite sharply, I have to confess.
There were a number of irritations that had built up throughout the day. A lot of it was work pressures and deadlines seeming to hang like black clouds.
I had also been on one of my church visits that morning. The church had the most glorious views overlooking the city – enough to stir the heart. It was a wonderful spring day and the sun was shining. That was outside the church. Inside the church we were being reminded in no uncertain terms that we were miserable sinners. It was very serious, straight laced and pretty much joy-less. There was a huge congregation and I wondered just what it was that made them return back each week to be told they were miserable sinners! Maybe I just hit a bad week.
Anyway, that is digressing. The other irritation was the lawn mower broke. There was just something about leaving a half cut lawn that offended my sense of order. It is silly that thing like that can suddenly take on huge proportions! Straw and camels backs!
And then there was our own church meeting itself. Evening meetings do not agree with me! I was to be preaching or sharing the word, under the impression that I had to keep going for 50 minutes. My husband was grumbling because, while I was preaching, he was doing the children’s work – for 50 minutes. Someone suggested that he try drama to keep the children occupied – not a good suggestion. He is happy to watch drama, but to encourage and direct it? Not at all!
So, yes, when the offer to pray with me was given, it was not well received! What I wanted at that moment was just to – I was going to write, stick my head in the oven and turn the gas full on – but that is not what I wanted. I think I just wanted space to collect my thoughts. I wanted to be left alone – not to seethe and froth at the mouth at the injustice of it all – but just to restore order and perspective. I know when I am being unreasonable and given enough time I can give myself the required talking to.
Sometimes prayer can be a cop out. Sometimes it is too easy to launch into a prayer almost as a cover up for real conversation. Sometimes we launch into almost a set pattern and predictable phrases and we are paying on auto-pilot. It is not offensive stuff but it is not perhaps that effective either.
Sometimes prayer can be like a sticking plaster we put over an injury. We don’t necessarily take the time to work out where the injury happened, with a view to preventing it happening again.
I am not saying – don’t pray. I am not even saying that prayer should not be our first resort. I am not saying that people don’t need to prayed for because they do. Somtimes we perhaps need to ask if we can help in any way, or push a cup of tea in their hand or even just sit next to them for a moment or two without saying anything at all.
My friend is a wonderful woman of God and I know that she loves me wholeheartedly. There is no excuse for unkindness, particularly among the children of God. I talked with her at the end of the meeting, and I asked her to pray for me, and we talked a little. Things were back on an even keel.
I just want to say that prayer isn’t always the answer. It can be part of the answer – after a long chat perhaps to get a better insight into the situation.
(Stage direction – Mel climbs off soapbox and exits stage left having said her piece)