By Hal Green, Pondering Prayer
There is clock time and then there is relational time. They are not the same thing. Clock time is horizontal and measurable; relational time is between persons when they connect. It has simple duration, is vertical and is immeasurable. Relational time may be temporary compared to the constancy of clock time but its aftereffects can be permanent.
Prayer unfolds in relational time. Like a conversation with a beloved friend, prayer time may seem brief yet clock time could indicate that hours went by. The opposite can seem just as true: prayer time may seem long, while the concurrent clock time was surprisingly brief. Speaking for myself, I have brief prayer moments throughout the day, turning intensely to the ultimate love of my eternal life. Such brief “God-fullness moments” are of a peace-bearing depth. They render clock time irrelevant.
Both clock and relational time are precious. Yet so many of us do not engage in sufficient relational time, not only for prayer but also for love. Perhaps we wonder what God might want of us. Is God demanding more time than we are willing or able to give? If so, a mixture of fear and guilt might arise within us.
When guilt enters a love relationship, one of two outcomes typically occurs. We confess and apologize or we avoid the other and let the relationship slowly slide into our history. Take, for example, grown children who have moved away from home and have not kept up connecting with their parents. Guilt will likely show up. It sure did between my mother and me. It seemed I was always apologizing, “I am sorry I have not called you….”
Since God is our eternal parent, we might have similar feelings: apologize and/or avoid. Yet the gracious truth is that God simply wants to hear our voice, as do mom and dad. Rather than wanting to make us feel guilty, God wants to embrace us with love, as did the father of the prodigal son upon the latter’s return in Jesus’ parable about how God loves us (Luke 15:20-24).
God will not lay guilt on us; that is something we put on ourselves. God will not reject us but, like mom or dad, really wants to hear from us, to get a sense as to where we are, to keep our relationship active. When you turn to God with your whole being, you receive an immediate audience, whether or not you sense it.
Time will remain an issue all of our lives. That includes time for prayer.
How much time do you have? How little? Do you feel guilty, sad or stressed about praying? Prayer should never be a negative issue. Quite the opposite. It should be a time away from all stress and strain, a time to let go of everything and to let God be God.
Jesus tells us we can keep our words few — and time in prayer brief (Matt. 6:5-8). Even single word prayers, like “Help!” or “Thanks!” can be sufficient, for God knows what we are really saying and meaning better than we do.
What usually does take some time is attaining a “prayer state,” which is a heightened time with God, without needing words, but having a serene sense of pure connection with the Beloved. Then time for becomes time with. There is no greater time than being together with God, even if it be for a brief yet immeasurable moment.
(Contact Hal Green, Ph.D., at email@example.com.)