“Where’s your coffee?” he asked.
I smiled and shrugged. “You know I don’t drink coffee.”
“Yes, I think you’re the only pastor on earth who doesn’t drink coffee,” he jested.
Since he didn’t have a drink in his hand either, I thought I’d ask, “Where’s your coffee, Jesus?”
With a wink he shot back with a playful echo from a scene from the Gospel of John, “Oh, I have a kind of coffee you know nothing about. My coffee,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (cf. John 4:32-34).
Chuckles all around. Frankly, it was a bit early for jokes in my opinion. As someone who is not a “morning person”, cheery morning folks get on my nerves….but this was Jesus so I wasn’t going to complain. And what would you expect? A grumpy Savior with bed head tired from staying up too late watching the Sci Fi channel?
“Follow me!” he said as we walked down the front steps of the cabin and toward a wood trail along the lake front. The weather was perfect and the morning birds flitted about singing their morning songs. My cartoon imagination almost expected a bird to perch on Jesus’ shoulder like Snow White as we ventured into nature.
“How about we begin our day with a time of prayer,” he said.
“Sounds good,” I responded, bowing my head and folding my hands. I waited a moment for Jesus to begin saying a prayer but heard nothing. Then his voice came from about 100 yards down the trail.
“What are you waiting for? Let’s go!” Jesus yelled back to me. I ran to catch up, feeling a bit confused and embarrassed. I thought we were going to pray… We began a relaxed walk along the lake side by side.
“Good morning!” Jesus said in a happy tone.
“Uhhh…good morning,” I responded, a little taken aback as I thought we had already covered that.
“Oh, not you,” Jesus told me. “I’m talking to Father. What a glorious morning! Listen to them sing! Birds! June bugs. Croaking frogs. Woodpecker in the distance. Glorious!”
He looked over at me, “What do you think Jeremy? Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Holy Spirit, dance! Holy Spirit, sing through your majestic creatures!” he continued. “Father, Holy Spirit, would you join Jeremy and I for a morning walk? Let us feel your presence in these woods.”
I was not used to this kind of praying. Jesus knew full well and so took a moment to teach me about prayer.
“Jeremy, people have really done strange things with prayer over the centuries. Folded hands. Eyes closed. Stiff and somber postures. Special prayer rooms. It’s all quite foreign to the Father’s intention for prayer.”
I nodded, taking mental notes as he continued.
“All creation is permeated with the presence of the Triune God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not trapped in an ornate sanctuary or prayer chapel. We are everywhere reaching out, watching, wooing, loving, singing, blessing and waiting for our children to welcome us into their everyday routines.”
I shook my head in agreement.
“There’s not formula, special phrases needed, or prayerful poses necessary to have a conversation with God. Just start talking! We are listening!”
For the next hour or so we walked leisurely around the lake, just taking in the beauty of the morning. One moment Jesus was pointing out various creatures like a proud toddler celebrating their latest fingerpainting. Then he’d be addressing the Father or Holy Spirit in a conversation as normal as the one we were having.
“Jeremy, have you ever heard of Brother Lawrence?” Jesus asked. “Father, remember our precious Kitchen Saint? Jeremy, he understood the nature of prayer better than anyone else. He simply learned to live with a continual awareness of Our presence with him. He was a lowly monk who worked in a monastery kitchen for most of his life — living what would be for most people the most monotonous and miserable life conceivable. But he turned that kitchen into a sanctuary and his daily chores were transformed into a joy-filled worship service as he invited us into every minute of his life.”
“Didn’t he write a book?” I asked.
“Yes, its called Practicing the Presence. You were supposed to read it in seminary, remember?”
“Jeremy, I hope you have seen how natural prayer can be. Just get up and say ‘Good morning’ as you brush your teeth, and invite us into your car for your morning commute. Acknowledge our loving presence in your mundane moments and seek our help and encouragement in those stress-filled moments.”
I nodded again, convicted a bit but not in a shameful way.
“Remember what Saint Paul said,
He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. . . . His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist (Acts 17).
As we strolled through the woods along the lake, I felt closer to God than I have ever felt before — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father’s warmth seemed to shine down through the rays of the morning sun. The Holy Spirit’s life-giving breath seemed to be in the morning breeze off the lake. The Son’s wisdom and guidance poured forth with every step we took down that dirt path.
The path was narrow, and at times came uncomfortably close to the drop off to the lake on one side and deep ravine on the other. Yet it was the perfect width for walking single file with one person following after the other. Danger awaited the fool discontent to follow the one in front of them or the one attempting to pass ahead of their leader on the side. The Scriptures’ warning, “Do not turn to the right or the left” (Prov. 4:27) never felt more fitting.
In the long silences between conversation, I pondered my lesson on prayer and my increased awareness of God’s presence with me. This would be a walk to remember. And the day was only just beginning.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
“Jesus himself would often slip away into the wilderness to pray” (Luke 5:16).
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17).
1. When was the last time you took a quiet walk in the woods — alone? Have you ever prayed out loud in a normal conversational way? Try it.
2. If Jesus made it a daily habit to go off to quiet places to pray, how much more so should we make it part of our daily routine?
PRAYER: Lord, if I’m honest with myself, I do not talk to you and relate to you in a way as real and meaningful as I relate and talk to my best friend or spouse. Help me to bring you into my daily routines, and learn to have a continual conversation with you. Amen.