37On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
I don’t know how it is for you when you pray.
I am not speaking of the form your prayer takes, whether you have an order, although I would recommend one, not of how you pray.
I am wondering whether you feel and experience the presence of God when you pray.
Some times I do. Maybe often. I have not kept track.
But sometimes I do not.
Some times it seems that either I am distant or that God is distant.
Some time I feel uninspired.
And if you have ever felt uninspired, or did not feel the presence of God, or wondered whether God heard your prayer, maybe you have stopped to pray or cut your devotion short, because there seemed no point to it, or maybe there would be a better time. Or maybe your mind wandered. Of course, our mind wanders all the time, but it is our task to direct it (which is why we read the scriptures, use prayers of the church ancient and modern, etc), to each other, for others deserve our attention, and to God, because God deserves our attention.
Because there are times of spiritual drought, when we feel far from God, that is why it is in fact good to have an order. Maybe from our worship book, or maybe a simple order you have created yourself. It is good because that order gives you a structure and gives us more stability than our emotions.
Of course, emotions are good. They are part of who we are.
But our emotions are never the whole picture, never all of reality, and if we go by our emotions alone, there is a good chance our emotions may betray us.
You have likely had a bad dream some time and woken up, still influenced by the dream, even though it was obvious that the dream was not your reality.
The truth is that God is always there, God is always present, it is us who are at times absent, from each other, and from God.
And so the point of our prayer is to intentionally enter into the presence of God, asking God to take us as we are, and transform us into God’s likeness, to take our emptiness and fill it with God’s presence, to take our listlessness and fill our lives with purpose, to take our indifference and give us passion, to take our little faith and multiply it.
On the eve of Pentecost the disciples sat behind closed doors. They were afraid, felt empty, and were unsure of the future.
And yet, they sat in obedience to Jesus, waiting for the Holy Spirit, whether they believed in the promise or the Holy Spirit or not.
And God came and filled their emptiness, and gave them new purpose.
That is what we do when we pray and worship. We come into God’s presence. Because we know that God is present and that God is faithful, even when we don’t feel God. Because there is only one reality that is determinative for our lives and that reality is God.