Last night, sitting with a new group whose journey we’ve joined here in the city, we were encouraged by a fellow urban practitioner concerning the necessity of a posture of prayer when looking to join in where God is already at work. If you’ve read anything that I’ve posted you could imagine I resonated with what he was sharing and began to connect it to my pursuit of finding sacred in the streets. At one point we were encouraged to be intercessors and to pray for and through our neighborhoods. My long history as an evangelical in this Western context reminds me that we really struggle with what can often be misunderstood as a vague and cliché type of response. My perception is it’s because we are comfortable with a transactional way of living … I do this and get that type of response. I pray and expect results. We aren’t used to or comfortable with waiting. We aren’t used to or comfortable with space and margin and the idea that God may be working beneath the surface in the murky depths that we have no way of seeing yet. I get it. I’m impatient. I can be a whiner. I can assume that God is distant, unwilling, or in my darkest times unable, to address my prayers no matter how passionate or fervent I may present them. In those moments I am painfully wrong.
Experience tells me that God is always working, and it is most often, or at least more often than I am comfortable with, beneath the surface. He is working and ever present on the very streets that I walk. Experience tells me that to really engage and appreciate what God is doing here does indeed require prayer, but not the prayer that I am comfortable with … the transactional I ask this and He does that kind of prayer. It requires as much or more intentional listening as it does interceding. The posture is one of intentional and informed listening. We are informed through our observation and intercession. This sort of prayer gives us the ears to hear and the eyes to see. In other words, our senses become in tune with the sights and sounds of God at work, in ways far more profound than the smallness of our ask. What God is doing on the everyday streets of our lives is often not the obvious that we imagine our answers ought to be. Like His revealing to Elijah in the still small whisper after an ear splitting, mountain rattling storm, the Sacred is often revealed subtly and discretely in the midst of our everyday noise.
These past few years my neighborhood has been considered the fastest growing neighborhood in the fastest growing city in the country. We continue to have more cranes than any other urban center. The sensory overload is real. The streets are hard to navigate much less find sacred in … yet it is still there … often beneath the surface and drowned out by the noise and the wealth and the poverty. It’s hard to pray here unless you’re intentional about it. I have a map of the neighborhood that lists every project, every office tower, every residential complex. I have third places, coffee shops, bars, parks. Each spot on this map has the ability to inform unique prayers. Each of these spots could easily be obstacles, but God sees them as opportunities. My prayers for these places aren’t to see “results”, they are to put me in a posture of listening, and watching… listening for the still small voice and watching for opportunities to respond. I’d be lying if I told you that I do it well. I’d be lying if I told you that I was disciplined in the practice. But I’d also be lying if I told you that, in the moments I am intentional, it hadn’t brought me a profound awareness of the Sacred in these streets.