Monday, December 14, 2009

Learning More About the Power of Prayer

Prayer is something one can always learn more about.

Recently, my parents went to visit an elderly couple from our church who are now in an assisted living facility. One summer day several years ago, we had this couple over for dinner (in part of an unfinished campaign to entertain all of our church family). Other than the fact that we were eating outdoors under a tree (with a table and chairs, of course), there was one specific thing I remember--the gentleman's blessing of the food. He prayed like he knew God, and I could tell he spent a lot of time on his knees. He spent around five minutes blessing our food and addressing the various needs of our families, church, area and nation. It made an impression on me. I've always aspired to pray like that--it seems to be a taste of the way Jesus prayed--intimately knowing the Father, and never uncomfortable or rushed. Their visit reminded me of his prayer, and exhorted me again to a higher level of prayer.

I have been very nervous about this past weekend for some time. Saturday morning was our first practice of the Christmas Pageant I wrote, followed closely by a piano recital with my new teacher (Mr. Cook). Then on Sunday, the Choir (which I'm leading) was performing the hardest piece of the season. In the evening, I directed the Instrumental Ensemble (playing my music) and instead of directing the choir like I usually do (Mom stepped in, thankfully), I played the piano (our regular pianist was at a concert at the Wharton Center).

If you knew me the way God knows me, you would know that when I get nervous, I start praying (like I should have been doing before I started the whole project). Any number of things could have gone wrong. However, after almost everybody arrived on Saturday morning, and we started reading through the script, I could feel God's hand on the production. We have three narrators who have the first two pages of reading. As they were reading through the scriptures and my responses, it was awe inspiring.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God...
The Word of the Lord came against the serpent...
The Word of the Lord came to Noah...
The Word of the Lord came to Abram...
The Word of the Lord came to David...
The Word of the Lord came to Isaiah...
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us..."

The reader's voices were exactly what I had envisioned, and did a beautiful job on their first time reading together. Another highlight was the choreographed falling of the shepherds around a mic. The light (the glory of the lord) flipped on and they fell like dominoes (not into each other, though!).

I admit, I was pretty enthused as we rushed home, right up until I started practicing for the recital (which was in less than an hour). My music was still fairly rough, and I knew it. Nervousness started setting in for the second time that day. But, that didn't stop the rush to the recital. I was the last to play, so I got to sit through stunning performances by three of Mr. Cook's other students. Even as Noah was playing soothingly, my heart was pumping faster and faster. Now, I've performed in front of people before--a lot. This was a new kind of music for me, and a crowd I mostly didn't know (and some people I knew and wanted to make a good impression on, like the Mayor of Charlotte), but that shouldn't have been a big deal for me. Praise the Lord that it was, though. Did I mention I had to give a speech (albeit short) about what I was going to play? Anyway, Noah couldn't play forever. Then it was my turn. I gave it all to God, and I reiterated my Key Word Outline more conversationally than I had done before, and played my pieces better than I've ever played them. Did you know that Jesus is a spectacular pianist?

Today, the choir performed their most difficult piece of the season. We started practice a little early, and nailed the hardest spot the first time. Did I mention I was nervous about this? During the performance later in the service, one of the sopranos and I (Mrs. Carrie) were cracking up at each other, which in turn kept a smile on most of choir's faces. (Choirs sing better in tune when they're all smiling, it emphasizes the words, and certainly makes the carols sound funner). We sang it the best we've ever done. The guys even (mostly) sang their part on 'Joy to the World'! Did I mention I pray when I'm nervous?

Then this afternoon, (I was coming off my praise/adrenalin high), we were looking for a light to help do a scene in the Christmas Pageant and couldn't find it. The scene is a silhouette--the first of three nativity scenes. I went out to the work bench, and when I couldn't find the desired lamp, I reevaluated my objectives. Did I want to do the scene because it'd be really cool, or because it would bring people closer to God? Once I got my priorities right I prayed, looked up, and there was the light hiding on the peg board.

It reminded me of the time (another prayer that really made an impression on me) when Mr. Butler (conductor of HSMA's symphonic band) prayed a simple request over a broken CD player, and within the second it started working.

On the radio this morning, the meteorologist was calling for freezing rain before and during my last Instrumental Ensemble practice. I got up and was reading in Mark where Jesus calms the wind and the waves--so I asked that he would calm the freezing rain. Within the minute, Mom came to tell me that the computer (including a verifiable radar map) said that the freezing rain had already passed earlier in the morning.

I think God's trying to tell me something. My guess is He either wants me to be nervous more often, or to do more praying when I'm experiencing other emotions.

Thank you, Father, for caring enough about me to teach me. Give me grace to learn from your lessons. But most of all, thank you for caring enough about me to send your Son to earth--that the communication lines with heaven could be open.

May God bless all of you as you prepare for this Christmas season.

In Christ,



Jonathan said...

Your comment about the elderly gentleman's prayer brought to mind what I've felt before, which is that nothing is more precious than to see an older saint who has served the Lord the majority of his/her life continuing to grow closer to Him all the time, and talking with our Savior like the the most close of personal friends. I've had the same experience, and it's just such overwhelming sense of peace hearing that intimate conversation with God that there's nothing that I would desire more than to have that same increasingly close relationship as I grow older in years. One of my favorite verses along these lines is Psalm 71:18: "Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not; until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to every one that is to come."