Today’s post in the Lenten series Return to Our Senses is an excerpt from April Yamasaki’s new book Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal. The questions at the end of this excerpt are excellent ones for all of us to ask ourselves as we journey through Lent.
April is lead pastor of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, B.C and is third-generation Canadian of Chinese descent. She has published numerous articles and several books which you can check out on her website. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it to you.
“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blest.” I learned this table grace as a child and repeated it so often that even now as an adult I sometimes pray these same words when I offer a silent prayer before a meal. The words have a comforting rhythm and come quite naturally to me – so automatically, in fact, that I’m tempted to rattle them off without thinking. But when I slow down and focus when I’m truly present and paying attention, these simple words can carry me more deeply into prayer.
I reflect on Jesus as a guest at my table, how his presence transforms an ordinary meal into an opportunity for communion with God. I am reminded of “our” table. Even when I’m eating alone, I remain part of a community and a world where some take too much and others do not have enough of God’s abundance. The words of blessing remind me never to take food for granted, but to receive even leftovers with thanks as a blessing from God. In this way my childhood prayer has become as heartfelt an personal as any spontaneous come-as-you-are prayer might be and continues to teach me how to pray.
I still have a lot to learn about the breadth and depth of prayer. How do I pray at six o’clock in the morning when someone calls in crisis? What do I pray for the person who is struggling, who is in such deep pain yet keeps making the kinds of choices that make everything worse? How do I keep praying for the dame person, the same situation over and over without getting tired and giving up, without getting bored? How do I pray continually as described in Scripture? What does it mean for prayer to become personal renewal instead of drudgery, to become a joy instead of a burden?