Year of Prayer July Prayer Practice: Praying in Nature
Although prayer is often thought of as an indoor activity, associated with the privacy of the home or the peace of a church sanctuary, many people experience a profound connection with God when out in the natural world. While this might not be the case when dealing with mosquitoes or poison ivy (which may themselves provoke theological speculation about purpose!), beautiful sunsets, mountain vistas, or the expanse of the night sky filled with stars frequently elicit feelings of wonder at the beauty and intricacy of creation. Even insurance companies associate nature with God, classifying the destruction of a tornado or earthquake as an "Act of God."
The scriptures are full of imagery of nature, from the psalms, to the prophets, to the parables of Jesus. Psalm 121 asks us to lift up our eyes to the hills in order to see God. Jesus proclaims in Luke 19:40 that if the people are silent, even the stones will cry out to praise God. When God expresses his power to Job, God makes the case through his control of the mighty creatures and seas. The idea that God’s handiwork is on display throughout the universe is a belief that traces its origins to the beginning of language about God.
In the Christian tradition, St. Francis is closely associated with the concept of finding God in nature. Francis was compassionate not just to human beings, but to the animals and the other parts of nature, speaking of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and preaching to the animals. Francis follows the tradition of the people in the Bible who likewise found a special closeness to God outside the confines of human habitation. These include Moses, who went up on the mountains to speak to God, Elijah, who was fed by the ravens, and Jesus, who frequently retreated into the wilderness to pray away from the crowds.
In the month of July, when the warmth of summer has not yet worn out its welcome, we will be exploring different ways to pray to God in nature. These practices range from going out in the nature to remind us of our connection to the rest of the created world, to close observation of a natural object to help us focus on noticing the world around us, to appreciating the earth as the source of our food and sustenance. Praying in nature can also intensify other forms of prayer, removing us from everyday human-made distractions.
Nature reminds us that we are also creations of God, connected to one another and to the world. It reminds us of the power and awesomeness of God, at both large and small scales. A life of prayer in nature can re-inspire us grow as disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.
Lord, make us who you want us to be.
Susan Haddox, Lay Leader