Our church is journeying in prayer this month. Our preaching series is “Questions of Prayer,” which aims to be honest about questions we share about prayer and give us orientation points for our praying. An optional step past Sunday morning is working through Steve Harper’s book, Talking in the Dark: Praying When Life Doesn’t Make Sense.
In the prologue, Steve introduces the source of his title, “Talking in the Dark.” In 2004, he and his wife lost electrical power, like many others, in the hurricanes that tore through Florida. Even when they could not see they continued speaking to one another—talking in the dark. That darkness was “neither fair nor friendly.” Darkness has a way of “evoking old fears and raising new ones, exposing raw emotions and scary thoughts.”
When light returned it “didn’t solve anything… Light simply revealed the extent of the destruction.” Some had been spared, others had not. He adds: “Light revealed but did not heal.”
Here’s the connection to prayer. Steve confesses, “Unfortunately, some literature about prayer is like that for me. It sheds light on the nature and practice of prayer, but in doing so it only makes the questions stand out more.”
I find truth in his statement in my journey. I am inspired and convicted about powerful prayer. And I aspire to it. But questions I have about prayer remain. I continue to affirm with Steve (quoted in my first post), “prayer is mystery.” So I appreciate this guidance: “Mysteries do not yield to quick fixes and simple formulas, and sometimes they never yield at all.”
Much is available, Steve says, for praying in the light. “But,” he asks, “what can we take with us into the darkness?”
“When the hurricanes were assaulting us and Jeannie and I talked in the darkness, we discovered (or rediscovered) the truth that sound travels in darkness just as much as it does in light. The noise of a hurricane can make talking more of an effort; the uncertainty can make conversation more challenging. But it does not affect the ability of sound to travel. I feel the same way about prayer.”
This strikes me as a wonderfully practical observation. The mysteries about prayer, and some moments or seasons of mystery are more difficult than others, may make “talking more of an effort” and “conversation more challenging” but in the midst of this, “sound travels” just the same. We can keep on talking, even in the dark, with God.