Coming home from Portland last week I found myself driving behind this semi for a few miles. And it had me thinking all sorts of deep thoughts about its message painted on the back.
What? You can’t see it? Let’s zoom in shall we.
Now if you’re anything like me your initial reaction might be to do your best to stay in your lane while you stare at the picture and try to make sense of it.
“Did you pray today?” is a fair question (even if asked without the question mark necessary to make it a question). It could be a helpful reminder to take a pause and recognize God’s presence in the moment. It could be a call to think about what you’re grateful for, and to whom you owe that gratitude. It could be just the grace you need to remember that you’re not alone in whatever you are struggling through at the moment.
But when you add the picture that accompanies it, however, all thoughts of the gift that is prayer fly out the window. The picture appears to be a scowling person pointing an accusatory finger my way. Instead of an invitation to participate in the incredible gift that is intimately conversing with the Creator of the universe, it is seen as a demand of my time and effort. And the guilt or shame that accompanies such a picture reminds me of the holiness lessons of my past and the years I spent striving to please God with my righteous behavior.
And don’t even get me started on the verse written here too. Out of context this verse surely implies that there are times and places where God isn’t available, so you best be getting on right now while God is. (Or isn’t? Hard to know if this is the time God is listening or isn’t listening.) Isaiah 55 is one of my favorite chapters in Scripture: full of glorious images of feasting on the goodness of God’s mercy, all for free! When put in the middle of such a picture of grace as this verse is, it is almost impossible not to accept: to seek God because if you do God promises “you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace” (Isaiah 55:12).
Friends, prayer is not an obligation. No, as Richard Foster writes, prayer is “the place of deepest intimacy where we know and are known to the fullest.” It is an invitation to the very heart of God. The place where we lay our burdens and our cares, where we are reminded of God’s goodness and love as God sings over us with joy. It is a place of hope and healing.
If you, like me, sometimes feel that prayer is just another box to check on your never-ending to-do list, may I ever so humbly offer my own experience of coming to realize the gift (not the burden) of prayer and what it really does look like to pray without ceasing…
Prayer is waking up with a song in my heart (often “Good morning God” that my children learned to sing years ago at Bible Study Fellowship) and taking a pause to acknowledge God’s presence.
Prayer is engaging with God about the people in my life as I fold each shirt and sock and pair of pants I remove from the dryer.
Prayer is my tears joining the water of the shower as I pour my heart out to God. (Yes, I often connect most with God in the shower.)
Prayer is driving alone for 10 minutes and choosing to turn off the radio.
Prayer is the sing-song grace my children love to offer before a meal.
Prayer is taking a deep breath.
Prayer is the square of the $9 bar of chocolate I couldn’t really afford but bought anyway on my tongue.
Prayer is the recognition of something beautiful.
Prayer is laughter.
Prayer is outloud in the car with my girls when we hear a siren or see a person asking for money.
Prayer is lying savasana on my yoga mat and imagining being wrapped up in the arms of God.
Prayer is sitting on a beach, heart unbelievably full of gratitude.
Prayer is a hug for a hurting friend.
Prayer is asking for forgiveness when my frustration has gotten the better of me. Prayer is hearing “I forgive you mommy,” and knowing it is true.
Prayer is stopping for the 15 seconds I need to in order to be faithful when I type “I’ll pray for you.”
Prayer is looking through old family pictures. Prayer is trying not to lose it at how big my kids have already grown.
Prayer is snuggling down in bed and listing off as many of the gifts of the day as I can before passing out.
And on and on and on. Every moment of every day. I treasure the times I am able to sit for a stretch in the presence of God, but I also treasure the reality that is prayer in every moment. It is holy work this life of prayer. And it couldn’t be richer.
I find myself wondering what should be on the back of the semi-truck instead of that angry pointing. Maybe an open hand? Maybe a smiling child? And would I even keep the words there? Maybe it would just be this:
What would the back of your semi-truck say?