Sunday’s Scripture ~ Acts 1:8, 2:42-47
I remember it like it was yesterday…the sweaty palms, the clammy brow, the unsettled stomach. I was seated at my desk. A blank sheet of paper before me and a pen in my hand. The task: write out the prepositions used in highest frequency in the English language. I believe there are 63.
Did I mention this was 8th grade? This was a life or death situation!
Then again I also remember the day before my first exam in my Old Testament seminary course, where Dr. Petersen and his fabulous mutton chops said, “I will not test you on something you can look up in a book…”
Geez…I wish Mrs. Anderson would have had the same sentiment…all that sweat for nothing!
Through was one of those high frequency prepositions. I understand through as a conduit. Like if you were traveling through a tunnel – you begin on one side and end up on the other. Movement, momentum, and progress occur in the through.
In honor of today being the kick-off to the 2014 NFL Season (Go Packers!), there are no “delay of game” penalties when you get to the through. You walk up to the line of scrimmage and you initiate the play. Or in our case of the collect prayer, you state your do – the petition of the prayer – and then proceed to the through so you begin working on it.
To continue the football analogy, saying the prayer is not the end of the play. Walking up to the line of the scrimmage and saying “hut hut hut” is not all that is required. You have to surround yourself with a team. You have to have a strategy. You have to actively move the prayer forward. If you are going to run the prayer, then you need people around you that are going to secure a safe passage. If you are going to launch your faith into a new area, you need to make sure you communicate with others so they can catch you or meet you on the other side.
There are allowances for time-outs, for pauses, for discernment, for consultation with coaches, mentors, family, and friends. But those need to be regulated as well. Not rushed, but regulated, because we cannot stay in time-outs forever. God does not want us in between plays or in between pursuing the words of our prayers indefinitely. God wants us active and serving and, in the words of John Wesley, “spreading Scriptural holiness over (or perhaps through-out!) the lands!”
In a football game the clock is always running. If it is stopped, it is only for a brief period. That players and coaches make such discerned and calculated and timely decisions is evidence of their preparatory work. God calls us to the same sort of preparatory work, and we engage that work through prayer. In prayer we offer our requests, we hear God’s will, we feel God’s strength, and we are sent out through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Every day we are stepping onto the “playing field” – are we going to move forward or move backward?
The through of the collect prayer moves us from start to finish, from beginning to end. And through God’s Holy Spirit, I believe we are transformed into holy conduits to move forward God’s new and renewing acts of grace, from one side to the other, from start to finish, from beginning to end.
Prayer: “Holy Spirit, wind and flame, move within our mortal frame; make our hearts an altar pyre; kindle them with your own fire. Breathe and blow upon that blaze till our lives, our deeds, and ways, speak that tongue which every land by your grace shall understand.”* Amen.
*”Wind Who Makes All Winds That Blow,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 538.