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Dipping Into Prayer

Miriam and I live within sight and sound of the ocean. So, it means we are graced to visit the beach most days. We walk the dog and still our souls. It’s a different shore line this time of year. Once autumn arrives, the bluster of July crowds yields to cold winds and seasonal storms. But the dog still insists on daily visits. I frequently encountered a gentleman on the shore. Regardless of the weather, he slips off his running shoes, drops his towel and wades into the water. He spends about 30 minutes in frigid waves, adds time to stretch and then walks home. Today I walked with him.  

I wanted to probe the answer to “Why?” He obviously wasn’t out there for fun or a tan. He put himself through a regimen that few would care to do, or could do. He smiled at my question and explained. He has rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors have done what they can do, but the best solution is found at the beach. The Pacific waters offer cold remedy and relief. If he maintains the discipline of these daily dips, his joints do not suffer. That doesn’t mean that the swim is easy or that he enjoys the chill of the wind and waves. It does mean that the persistence of his pattern brings improvement in his life. My mind went immediately to the subject of prayer.  

Anyone who says prayer is easy is misleading you. It’s not hard to pray occasionally and there are moments when prayer is a pleasure. Praying when our life is sunshine and the community of faith surrounds is not a challenge. To pray persistently under a cloud cover, when our souls are chilled and we feel alone - that is another matter.  And yet, that is the time when we need it most. Prayer is obedience. We do it because we ought to. Prayer is a relationship. We do it because we love. Prayer is spiritual conflict. We do it for Kingdom change. But today in a moment of frank clarity, standing beside a shivering bather, I was reminded. I pray because I must.  

Prayer is remedial to my life. It has curative power. Prayer is preventative. It wards off inherent sickness of soul. But prayer is hard. I don’t do it as I should. I struggle to be present every day on the shore of His grace. But of this I am convinced. I am better off when I pray consistently. The struggle of the process is less than the pains of inattention. So we learn to do what is hard and gain what is precious.