Executive director, Mennonite Church USA
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to pray. I receive lots of requests for prayer. Sometimes I ask myself, “What difference does it make how I pray?”
It seems that I pray best when I seek to align myself with God’s will in the world. For me, that comes through the cultivation of a relationship with God. How could I know God’s will without spending time in communion with God?
In the most meaningful relationships that I have with other people, I enjoy just being with them. Most times, I don’t need to ask for anything or try to make something happen. The act of communing with each other is satisfying in itself.
I can hardly imagine a meaningful relationship with someone who asked for something every time we got together. If I had such a friendship, I’d soon get tired of it. It wouldn’t nurture or sustain me. I know that God does not have human limitations, but I do wonder if God ever gets tired of a stream of requests when we pray. Might it feel to God like sorting “junk mail?” If so, it means that prayer in the form of communion should precede prayer in the form of intercession.
Instead of thinking about ways that I can get something from God when I pray, I try to think of ways that I might get to know God better. Often when I spend time listening to God, I find that my attitude and perspectives change. I am less self-centered or demanding in my requests.
I have come to enjoy daily morning walks in a wooded park near my home. I commune with God as I stroll on the winding path, listening to what God has to say and sharing the things that are on my heart, including the needs of others. As I leave the park each day, I usually feel restored, guided and sent. I’m ready, most days, to start my work with a sense that I am embarking on God’s mission in God’s way.
Ervin Stutzman is executive director of Mennonite Church USA.