A Cheech And Chong Prayer Life
Aside from pointing to my age, this clip should make you laugh. That's a good thing in itself, but I wanted to say something about my prayer life and this clip is a good place to start.
My prayer life is, first and foremost, a pitiful and distracted thing and my experience of answers delayed has often felt like Cheech's experience on the bench in this skit with Chong playing the roll of prayer answerer.
Yet, God gives me all I need and, a lot of the time, He does it without my asking or my thanks.
My extemporaneous prayers are often as bad as the ones I make fun of with all the linguistic artifacts a California boy can muster. The ones I offer with the rest of the body of Christ are scriptural and filled with the best our history and our theology provide, but if intention is always required when reciting, I don't think those prayers I offer measure up either.
We have this incredible privilege where we, though Jesus' intercession, are ushered into the very presence of the Father. I, for one, treat this privilege as if it were my right and, if my efforts at prayer are any indication, really don't value the privilege much of the time... or unless I'm in trouble.
I offer no excuse and, when I think about it like I'm doing now, feel pretty sorry about it. What a waste.
Are you with me so far? Now that I've made you feel bad...
Jesus Intercedes For Us In Prayer
He prays for us
He knows how weak we are—how weak I am. In John 17, He blesses all of us who believe through the apostles' message without seeing Him or the miracles He did while on earth. He forgave the apostles for sleeping on the job in the garden when they were most needed (Matt. 26:36-46) and He forgives us too and gives us our daily bread 'even without our prayer' as the Small Catechism says (in the answers to the second, third and fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer).
He stands in the middle as a high priest
In the book of Hebrews, we are introduced to a perfect mediator, a million times better than the levitical priests of the Old Testament (Hebrews 3), Who intercedes for us with the sacrifice of His own body (Hebrews 10), delivering us from the wrath we so richly deserve and delivering sonship in its stead. He not only atones for us, He makes us His brothers though adoption (Hebrews 2:10-12).
He stands for us and gives us His standing
Jesus prays perfectly for us and is aligned perfectly with the will of the Father in our stead. As the true Israel of God and Head of the New Covenant of which we are the beneficiaries, Jesus gives to us the gift of His prayers and His obedience as if they were our own, so that the Father calls us His obedient sons (1 John 3:1, Galatians 4:7, Romans 8:15)
The Holy Spirit Prays With Us
We shouldn't be surprised that we don't measure up when it comes to prayer. In Romans 7:15-25, we learn how compromised we are by our sinful condition, even as Christians.
St. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that we don't pray as we ought to and that the Spirit of God testifies with us, testifying to our standing as Sons and, as our advocate, speaking on our behalf when we pray wrongly or don't know how to pray.
He's like an attorney who knows the rules of the court and intercedes for us with 'groanings that cannot be expressed in words', defending us even from ourselves.
The Father Knows What We Need
Luke 11 is all about promises for those who pray and it makes me want to be better at it. When I'm troubled, I am a bit more fervent at least, but a great thing about this passage is found in verses 11 and following:
Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?
God gives good gifts, gifts we need for the journey and for our joy and for battle in this weary battleground of a world. And I think the flip side is true; He gives us good gifts even when we ask for bad ones—he gives us fish though we've unwittingly asked for snakes, eggs when we foolishly requested scorpions. And He gives us the Holy Spirit to interpret and intercede so there can be no breakdown in communication from our side... what could be better?
Silence Has a Purpose
I don't know what the heck it is... sometimes I think I do, but I'm probably wrong. I'm just saying that, with all that's been done for me: my baptism to which I brought nothing, all the people God has placed in my life, Jesus revealing himself to me through His preached and written Word and in the gift of Communion, revealing His will to save and to bless all who come to Him, I have every reason to trust Him, even when it feels like there are long stretches of radio silence (John 9, Matthew 9:20).
Indeed, His Word to baptise and save has gone out to all the world and continues to do so; in that sense, He is not silent. I'm speaking from my own experience about my answered or unanswered prayers. Anyone who has suffered long term debilitating pain, cancer, persistent messengers of the devil in the form of depression or anxiety, or even the pain and guilt of addiction knows what its like to live with silence from God. Sometimes, deliverance from these things is delayed, whatever the reason.
Sometimes it feels like the end of the Cheech and Chong video clip.
This is a bit of speculation, but maybe we are like Seal Team 6, part of an extraction team assigned to save a bunch of people, stuck behind enemy lines and, for strategy's sake, given limited, compartmentalized information to avoid us compromising the mission in some way.
Knowing I'm the material God is working with, I would believe it in a hot minute!
Why we are sometimes put in painful, even 'die in place' positions is anyone's guess. As far as I know, none of us is privy to that information. It is only though faith in Jesus that I believe even these horrible things are redeemed somehow. Otherwise, I'm in the dark on this one like everyone else.
We Are Part Of The Extraction Team?
Jesus leaves us here in this old, embattled world to be salt and light and rescue for others and He doesn't leave us without communication (check out Luke 11 again!) or support (other believers, Word and Sacrament).
Supply lines are what they are in war and even though we are specialists and agents, we are just like everyone else when it comes to needing our daily bread provided and our hind quarters delivered from the enemy.
The Good Father gives all these things even to those that hate Him, without their prayer. But we have the privilege of knowing where the good gifts come from!
He knows what we need better than we do and He has a mission to save and we are a part of it whether we choose to accept the mission or not.
I thank God the Father for recruiting me, blessing me with everything, giving me stuff to laugh at—me included—and for covering even my profoundly inadequate prayers with the perfect praises, intercessions and petitions of His Son.