The church that I used to attend before my weekend work schedule interfered has been having a prayer challenge this week. The challenge is to have at least one person at the church, every hour of each day of the week, to engage in prayer. When my friend Lindy first mentioned this a week or two ago, I was non-committal, but when she asked again this week I was glad to accept. I knew this would be a good way to re-kindle my inner spiritual flame, and to reconnect with a group of believers, albeit in a somewhat eremitic manner.
Since my normal sleep pattern is sort of chaotic and random, I decided to take the 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. time slot, as that's a very difficult one for people with normal sleep patterns to cover. I woke up about 2 a.m., got dressed and then went to the church, taking just my Bible for some referral and inspiration. One of the new Pastors was there already, maintaining the vigil in the late night. We chatted for a few moments and then I settled in after looking around for a few minutes. Different stations had been prepared with various ideas and methods of prayers from different Christian traditions, to help people gain inspiration and think outside of their usual pattern.
The night before, my girlfriend and I were discussing this and how difficult even fifteen minutes of prayer is for some people much less an hour. I wasn't too concerned with that as the church youth group I was a part of in my teen years often had long sessions of group prayer. I also have a good deal of experience in long sessions of Buddhist meditation, so I wasn't overly concerned about the time period, but I still had my Bible, In case I needed some inspiration.
Sitting down on one of the front pews, I began praying, specifically for some things that I had been asked to pray for by others. Stopping after what seemed like just a few minutes, I looked at my watch and realized that it had been almost twenty-five minutes. I opened my Bible to the Psalms and spent about ten minutes reading various ones to myself. Returning to prayer, again for what seemed like just a few minutes, I heard the door open as the next participant arrived and realized my hour at watch was over.
I quietly excused myself and went to the clipboards to sign up for the same hour tomorrow morning. Stepping into my car, I knew a peace and contentment that I had not felt in quite a long time. We're taught to pray for God's forgiveness as we forgive those who have wronged us, those against whom we have a grudge. There has always been one person in my life whom I have been very unwilling to forgive: myself. Having asked for help living a life of forgiveness, I was able to feel the beginnings of forgiveness towards myself, and for the first time ever, God's love and forgiveness for me.
It's not enough to just let other people be human, I have to let myself simply be human for the whole thing to work.