This is a joint blog conversation with Jennifer Acker and Barbara Dunlap about the ways that God meets us where we are: in our big feelings, through our prayers, and in worship (plus in all other places and ways).
Join us on Facebook on Friday night, February 26 to listen/watch as we, Rev. Philip Rhodes, and a couple of children and confirmands have a discussion about this BIG topic and the ways that God Meets Us!
God Meets Us In Our Big Feelings: Can God REALLY handle ALL of my Big Feelings?:
Barbara: Yes! God can handle all our feelings. If I ever doubt this, I turn to the Psalms. They are songs of praise, of lament, of joy, of anger. If you have ever felt it, a psalmist wrote about it. Jesus also turned to the Psalms as he was dying on the cross. He brought his anger and questions before God and quoted Psalm 22. All our feelings, even the scary ones, are important to God.
Jennifer: I do believe that God meets us where we are and I believe God can handle ALL of our BIG feelings: the happy/joyous ones, the devastating/sad ones, the angry/irate ones, etc. I believe God can handle it ALL (and wants to hear it ALL) from us. I believe we shouldn’t hold back on our prayers to God. I believe God wants us to open our hearts, even though God already knows what is in our hearts. I wonder what you believe.
God Meets Us In Our Prayers: What I DO and DON’T say to God when I pray:
Jennifer: First of all, I do not believe there is a right or a wrong way to pray, these are simply my opinions for my prayer life. Also, I know I JUST said to ‘say it ALL to God’, but let me tell you what I try NOT to say to God. When I pray, I try NOT to say “God, please be with me. God please be with them.” Why? Because I don’t think that’s necessary. I believe God is ALREADY always with us, because God is amazing like that. If I pray: “God be with me” then it almost feels like I’m trying to tell God how to do God’s job. God doesn’t need a reminder of how to do God’s job! I’m the one who needs a reminder! So, this is what I try to pray instead: “God, please let me feel your presence with me. God, please remind me that you are with me. God, please help them notice that you are with them.” Do you see the difference? I wonder if you’ve ever paid that close attention to the words in your prayer. I wonder if changing your prayer might help remind YOU that: God meets us ALWAYS, God is actually already there, and WE just need to do a better job of NOTICING God’s presence.
Barbara: Like Jennifer, one of the most common things I pray is for me or someone else to remember that we are surrounded by God’s love. This is especially important when we feel alone. Maybe we are heading into an interview or to a medical appointment, and we feel scared. God is with us! Prayers asking that we will recognize God at work around us help us join God in that work too.
God Meets Us in Worship: Prayer of Invocation:
Jennifer: The Prayer of Invocation has always been an interesting thing to me during worship. When I was young, it almost felt like the Invocation was us letting God know that it’s time for worship and we were inviting God to come show up and join us. After more careful thought over the years, I realized that God was ALREADY there in the space even before we arrived. God didn’t need us to remind God to come be with us in worship. I believe that WE are the ones who need reminding to notice that God is in worship with us. This tells me that God doesn’t just meet us, God goes before us. I believe that WE are the ones who need to be called fully into the worship space to meet God. I wonder if you’ve ever thought about these things. I wonder if the Prayer of Invocation at the beginning of worship might take on a deeper meaning for you after you prayerfully consider these ideas.
Barbara: You may not know that Sarah Garza writes our liturgy for worship. Each week, she writes our Call to Worship and Invocation (and some other parts of our worship). The two times she has been on maternity leave, I filled in for her and wrote those liturgical pieces. Almost every week, I’d go back and look at the definition for the Invocation. UMC.org says, “In United Methodist usage, a prayer asking for a special sense of God’s presence and guidance.” God is there, waiting for us always. We just don’t always recognize God’s presence. This prayer is a way that we focus and turn our hearts and minds toward God each week.
Loving God, thank you for always meeting us where we are. Help us remember that you are with us at all times and in all places. Amen