Prayer has been on my mind a lot lately. Actually, it’s been much more intense in the last few weeks.
I participate online in a home group with Church of the Rock in Winnipeg, Canada. We watch a short video and then discuss it. One of the pastors serves as a host. The series we are currently studying deals with prayer. And it has me thinking about prayer a lot more than usual, especially the circumstances surrounding when, why and how I pray.
We tend to pray for ourselves when we are in need much more than when things in our lives are going smoothly. Somehow praise for God isn’t always included. But there is a reason why our church services begin with praise. This strengthens our communication and relationship with God.
I plead guilty to praying for others more often than praying for myself. But I am trying to change that. My prayers with God have become more like conversations with a friend. I take more time to pray each day, always including praise.
And now, what prompted me to write this post.
Last week, someone in my past contacted me, someone I haven’t heard from in years. We are blood relatives and although we lived in different cities in Canada, we were quite close. But it’s interesting how my divorce and my becoming a Christian has completely changed our relationship. While I have reached out to him when he has experienced crises in his life during the last decade, I have undergone four major surgeries without hearing a word from him. My daughter got married. My first granddaughter was born. Still no acknowledgment on his part. And yes, he was well aware of all of these events. Last week I received a text on Facebook Messenger from him. Not a text to sincerely inquire as to my well-being. Nope. He had an agenda. He had a new venture on his mind and he would have benefited financially had I gone along with this. Needless to say I have had no response to my text informing him that I was not interested in this venture. And I wonder if and when I will ever hear from him in the future.
When he needs me in his life and it’s convenient for him, then he reaches out. Otherwise I am ignored and forgotten, like a book that gets put up on a high shelf never to be dusted.
However God forgives my sins and I need to forgive others. There is no room in my heart for anger or bitterness. I want my heart to be filled with peace, love and tranquility. So I have chosen to pray for this cousin instead.
Prayer is powerful.
I’ve written quite a few blog posts over the years. Two topics I never write about are religion and politics. But today I’ve decided to touch on religion.
Last weekend I was at a webinar at church dealing with children’s ministry. I am an active volunteer in this field at Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene. The highlight of the summer for me is reaching out to the children during Vacation Bible School. In the fall before I head back to Mexico I will also help out in the Wednesday evening children’s program. I also have volunteered with Light the Night, although this year my time here in the USA is up before the actual event takes place this year.
Back to the Webinar. In the presentations and subsequent discussions, they confirmed what had been missing in my own life, what I had missed out on in my childhood. And I now am more able to fully understand the newly found comfort that I have in my life today.
As a child, along with my family we attended Herzlia Adas-Yeshurun, an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Winnipeg. Weekdays I found myself at Hebrew School after regular public school classes let out. Friday nights and Saturdays were spent in synagogue. Sunday morning was at Hebrew School as well.
Families were separated and did not sit together. Because this was an Orthodox synagogue, the women sat on one side of the sanctuary and the men sat on the other with a tall barrier (a mechitzah) in between. This was to prevent distracting the men from prayer. Women were not allowed up on the front platform (the Bimah) to conduct or participate in services. They were not allowed anywhere near a Torah.
I learned all the prayers in Hebrew and in English. At home we did keep kosher and observe holidays. But there was something missing. That something was that I never really had a relationship with God. I was merely going through the motions of being a Jew. If I ever did question anything I was learning in Hebrew School, my parents would admonish me and tell me that what I was learning was right and that it wasn’t to be challenged. For instance, I particularly found it hard to understand why my parents frowned upon my associating with a Catholic girl who lived nearby. After all, are we not to love others, no matter what religion they practice?
By some miracle I did marry a Jewish man. We didn’t keep kosher and holidays were merely endured for the sake of our parents. Practicing a religion did not exist for us until we had children, when it became somewhat of a dilemma.
We provided our children with a more Conservative-Reform type of background. When they were young, they attended a Jewish parochial school. My son had a Bar Mitzvah and my daughter had a Bat Mitzvah. They grew older and were no longer interested in the traditions. That was fine with me. And religion drifted out of our lives.
In 2009 I was baptized at Church of the Rock in Winnipeg. A few months later I went on a mission trip to Mexico with members of my church. Two things happened. I fell in love with the people and the country of Mexico. But more importantly I actually put into practice as a Christian what I had learned. I wasn’t merely talking the talk. I was now walking the walk.
Finding a Christian church in Mexico, a predominantly Catholic country, is quite a feat. Consequently I often find myself in a Cathedral where I contemplate my own meditation and prayers. I consider Leavenworth Church of the Nazarene as my home church, and am so thankful to have found this treasure two years ago when I first visited Leavenworth.
Pastor Becky Goodman is pastor of children and families here. She has become a good friend and we have often have stimulating conversations. We were out for dinner a couple of weeks ago and she asked me how I could have gone without religion for thirteen years given the upbringing I’d had. My reply was that you never miss what wasn’t there. How do you miss a relationship with God when there was never one to begin with?
Recently I visited a friend in hospital. Before we left, we gathered around and held hands and prayed. Prayer is powerful as is giving praise to God. These are two concepts that were also missing from my childhood. The words may have been spoken back then, but there was no meaning behind them.
I messed up with my own children. I was so quick to dismiss religion from our lives back then. I passed my non-relation down to my children. But a new opportunity has been provided for me. I have a new granddaughter. It is my fervent hope that Maddie will be here for Vacation Bible School in four years time when she is old enough. I so want her to experience a true, loving relationship with God. I do not want what was missing in my life to be missing in hers.