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  • Writer's pictureRev. Joel L. Tolbert

Ring God's Doorbell

I used to avoid prayer. For my first 20 years, I didn't know what prayer was. In my third decade, I began to practice it superficially because my community, the church, did so. I didn't personally pray but could mimic prayers I saw and heard around me. I could read a prayer someone else wrote for me, but couldn't pray from my own self.

In my fourth decade, I began to pray with God more personally. Our three children were young. I had accelerated career paths. It was becoming hard to juggle life, work, and relationships. I prayed more like a wrestling match with an opponent I couldn't see, didn't like, and couldn't beat.

At Seminary, things shifted. I began to see the great variety of prayer in Scripture, in the history of the church, and in my Seminary colleagues and professors. I began to realize prayer is an exercise in authentically knowing and revealing one's self to God and to even to our own selves.

Now, in my sixth decade, I still feel some of the discomfort of praying, the vulnerability, the hot spotlight of being fully seen, heard, and known by God and others listening if the prayer is public. I still feel the fear of revealing or seeing something about myself I don't want others, God, or myself to see. I'm not sure that feeling will ever go away.

It is getting softer though, not because I am becoming a better person. I still have much to reveal to God and myself that will need healing. However, years of practice wondering and imagining with God has me more and more comfortable with the God who has high expectations and shows infinite grace, who demands justice and always loves, who wants wholeness and fullness but will never use violence or coercion. Prayer is becoming a language of friendship and love, an honest relationship of listening, sharing, and being changed.

Today, as you enter prayer, imagine ringing the doorbell of one of your oldest, bestest friends. God answers the door, sees your face, and smiles broadly. The door opens and God steps though to lay a big hug on you. Then God turns and welcomes you into God's own living room, where the light is soft, there is a comfy chair, a soft blanket, and a warm cup. God sits nearby, leans toward you with excitement and curiosity and asks, "So, what's up?"

Then pray.

May blessing, laughter, and loving be yours,

Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

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