Friendship, listening, and empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Draw Near: Praying for trust and prayer as trust

Lynne Baab • Tuesday November 22 2022

Draw Near: Praying for trust and prayer as trust

If you’ve ever visited Trafalgar Square in London and looked toward the National Gallery, you might have noticed a church off to the right. That is St-Martin-in-the-Fields, where Rev. Samuel Wells is the vicar. He was previously the Dean at Duke University Chapel, and he is one of my favorite columnists in The Christian Century. I love it when he writes about the challenges of serving a church in central London, often full of tourists. I also enjoy his reflections on what our Christian faith looks like in practice.

In a recent column, Rev. Wells argues that there are two kinds of faith: belief and trust. Belief, he argues, focuses on certainty and conviction. He thinks that when we focus on belief, we often beat ourselves up when we can’t generate the kind of certainty we expect of ourselves or that we think others expect of us. Trust, as he describes it, is quite different:

“Trust doesn’t assume life is about overcoming limitations. It’s about finding truth, beauty, and friendship in the midst of those limitations. Trust doesn’t think that if you wave a magic wand, things will change overnight. It finds companionship in the community of the waiting. Trust doesn’t pretend that if you hold tight to the right things, nothing will ever go wrong. It inhabits the exercises and patience required to rebuild after matters have been strained or broken.” [1]

This has profound relevance to the way we pray. If trust is about “finding truth, beauty, and friendship in the midst of limitations,” then we can ask for God’s help to find those lovely things. We can ponder, in God’s presence, the pattern of our lives and ask for help in seeking activities that nurture truth, beauty, and friendship.

If trust is finding “companionship in the community of the waiting,” then we can affirm the significance – and even value – of waiting and ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power to wait more graciously and patiently. We can ask for Jesus’ companionship with us in those too frequent situations when we must wait. We can also ask for the Holy Spirit’s nudging of where to look for human companionship. We can ask for the ability to convey to others our willingness to wait with them. We can try to grow in our willingness to wait even as we pray, to grow bit by bit in practicing silence and stillness in prayer.

If trust “inhabits the exercises and patience required to rebuild after matters have been strained or broken,” we can ask for the Holy Spirit’s empowering to help us patiently work on rebuilding broken relationships and systems. We can ask for God’s help to identify the ways our spiritual practices are strengthening us for rebuilding, and we can pray for help in identifying new spiritual practices that might help us grow in trust.

Maybe Rev. Wells’s article, entitled “The Better Part of Faith,” spoke to me so much because trust is a challenge for me. My spiritual director in the early 2000s told me multiple times to notice whether or not I was trusting God in various situations. I had never focused very much on the idea of trust until I began meeting with her. My Christian heritage as a child was God’s power and mystery, and I’m intensely grateful for what I learned as a child in Episcopal and Anglican churches about God’s majestic power, beauty and mystery. As a young adult my faith was deeply cognitive. I had so much fun diving into the rich intellectual tradition surrounding study of the Bible and theology. These Christian strands are vitally significant to me.

All too often today, however, the key issue for me is trust in this wonderful God who came to earth in Jesus to walk with us. Rev. Wells argues that trust focuses on building relationship with God and with others, so we can speak honestly to our loving companion, Jesus: “There are going to be setbacks, misunderstandings, and patient rebuilding. But I only want to be with you.” We may also say those words to our companions on the journey.

Rev. Wells concludes his article with a vivid picture:

“The Christian faith is really about trust. It’s not about Jesus the magician whisking us away on a magic carpet of happiness and glory. It’s about facing the unknown and seeing Jesus turn around, offer us his hand, and say, ‘We’re going to walk across the unknown together.’”

Prayer involves placing our hand in Jesus’ hand. Therefore prayer itself is an act of trust because in prayer we turn from our self-sufficiency and busyness toward the One who loves us.  And prayer is a place where we can ask for more trust.

(Next week: Prayer and desire. Illustration by Dave Baab: Queen Elizabeth Park, Masterton, New Zealand. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” below.”)

A previous posts on trust: Trust and obey for there’s no other way

Additional related posts:

[1] All quotations in this post are from “The Better Part of Faith” by Samuel Wells, The Christian Century, November 2022, 34.

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