Friday, March 12, 2010


“Don’t pray! Oh, no, don’t pray!”

I looked at the neatly dressed nun in total surprise. I thought surely she knew the value of prayer, and would thank me for my kindness in offering to pray.

But her words echoed as if she was speaking in an empty football stadium, “. . . don’t pray; don’t pray; don’t pray”.

We were a part of a group that had just experienced a time of reflection, We were learning how to love others at the level of their deepest needs. Two or three of us had just acted out a visit with a hospital patient. The rest of the group had critiqued the role play.

It wasn’t easy for any of us to be told that we were more interested in ourselves than the patients.

I remember a time when I took up a free offer to experience an exercise room. Here came the trainer, with a nice tan, excellent posture, and muscles bulging all over his body. He took me to a treadmill and began to tell me how I should begin. I was totally exhausted in less than ten minutes!

He had experienced the benefits of exercise, but had forgotten how he felt in his own early experiences.

If he had offered me private training, I would have said, “Oh no, I don’t want to train!” I realized the truth of Proverbs 28:16 that says a leader who lacks understanding is very oppressive, but one who hates unjust gain prolongs his life.

The nun needed to learn that prayer could be an amazing treasure, but I also needed to value the understanding I could gain in practicing certain disciplines, but it wasn’t happening! I was still reeling under the pain of someone who had told me not to pray!

We are in pain, and it looks like others want to gain from that pain! We don’t get it. We must be deaf. We don’t know how to respond. We are dumbfounded.

We can identify with Jesus while being accused of telling people he could destroy a magnificent temple that had taken years to build, and rebuild it in three days. (See Psalm 38:10 and Matthew 26:61). That isn't what he really said. No wonder he didn’t answer. They were way off base! But he did answer the high priest’s question in the affirmative, when he said, “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?”

How do I build an appreciation for prayer in someone? How does a trainer build an appreciation for exercise in a lazy person? Understanding is the missing link, and that is sometimes costly.

I don’t naturally hear cries for help during pain, until I myself have experienced it. Pain is an unrelenting authority where my weakness is used against me. That is when I learn to pay exacting prices for truth, wisdom and understanding, without selling it as a piece of merchandise. (Proverbs 23:23)

Understanding is like a warrior's shield, and the person who neglects the discipline that invites it, loses great treasure. (Proverbs 2:2-6) (Proverbs 15:32)

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