Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Prayer and Purpose

(Linda, at Maracas Bay in Trinidad)

I have a friend who loves to work in his large vegetable and flower garden. He talks about needing "garden time." I say to him, "That's your therapy."

Working and laboring for a purpose brings satisfaction. (For example of working for no purpose, read atheist Albert Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus.)

In praying, God gives me work orders. In the praying room with God I receive his kingdom plans and purposes. Purpose grows as I pray in the garden of God's presence.

Presence is prior to purpose. Purpose comes out of prayerful presence. In praying, I hear the call of God to "Go," or "Do." Famously, my doing emerges out of my being.

From God's POV there's no such thing as a small call. To work at a task God has for me results in his plans accomplished, and my emotional and spiritual needs fulfilled. This even applies to seemingly insignificant tasks. For example, I come home and see dishes that need to be done, so I wash them. I love doing dishes. The telos or purpose for me is: it pleases my wife Linda. When she gets home, she notices. I like the thought of freeing up her life. I love Linda, and love sets people free. This is laboring with a greater purpose.

To co-labor with God and his intentions is to work with purpose in life is . This is the heart of true prayer, which is: talking with God about what God and I are thinking and doing together. I want to come to the end of my life knowing God has worked through me to accomplish his desires. That is good. It is a way of loving God, and is therapy for my soul.

Laboring with no sense of purpose is a kind of hell.[1] It is boredom. "Boredom" is not having nothing to do; boredom is finding no meaning in what you are doing. Purposeless work produces inner agitation. It is useless and ill-directed action of the body. As a pastor I am always meeting people who live purposeless lives, and experience constant back-and-forth spiritual agitation.

Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your hearts be agitated[2].” A washing machine has an “agitator.” It thrusts the clothes back and forth, over and over again and again. Spiritually, “agitation is the useless and ill-directed action of the body. It expresses the inner confusion of a soul without peace… All this is the death of the interior life.”[3] 

To work for the goals of money, pleasure, or power is to construct an agitator in the heart. It brings "the death of the interior life." The antidote to this is: dwell, now, in Christ.[4]

In the praying relationship I discover my work. This discovery arises out of a Christ-abiding relationship. This is where the fruit grows and the tasks are delegated. One’s laboring becomes relevant, bringing peace and fulfillment to the soul.

Follow Jesus’ command to abide in him. Allow him to shepherd your soul. A little bit of churchgoing won't help. A few mc-prayers won’t either. Constant abiding will. Out of this Christ-dwelling comes not only his peace and joy but life purpose.

I pray because my work will be purposeful.

[1] On the hellishness of purposeless work see Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus.
[2] ταράσσω,v  \{tar-as'-so} - to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro); to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of  mind, disturb his equanimity. Greekbible.com.
[3] Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island, 114-115. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt, 1983.
[4] See John chapters 14-16.