Creative Prayer and Friendship

by Christine Sine

By Rev. Jeannie Kendall

Photo by Jeannie Kendall. All Rights Reserved.

Photo by Jeannie Kendall. All Rights Reserved.

Last night I watched one of the Hobbit trilogy with a friend who is having chemotherapy. The antics of Bilbo are a wonderful distraction.  There are now six films based on Tolkien’s books, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. The way all six films have been made accurately reflects one of the major themes in the books: that of the power and significance of friendship. I won’t give any major plot spoilers, but one part of the films has struck me in particular.

At the end of the third film, Bilbo returns home, and finds his house and its contents being sold. As he has been declared missing, and in a piece of wonderfully ludicrous hobbit bureaucracy matching our own, they demand proof of his identity, despite all knowing him well. He finds the contract he signed to give loyalty to Thorin the dwarf leader: a piece of legality which the truth of their complex relationship has long left behind. Asked by the hobbit auctioneer who Thorin is, Bilbo at last answers with a moving yet misleading simplicity: “He was my friend”.

The actuality of their bond had in reality been quite complex. In their 13 month mission there has been moments of suspicion, apparent betrayal, profound loyalty and, in the end, a deep connection which sprung from considerably more than their shared task. They laughed together, despaired together, traveled together, and shared a plethora of memories, yes. But Bilbo had also seen Thorin at his worst: challenged him at times, at times kept his own counsel, but always sought both for Thorin’s best and to see him become the leader he knew he could be, seeing in him the bravery and sense of honour which was not always apparent.

At this point you are perhaps thinking “I thought the theme this month was creative prayer?” Indeed. Stay with me for a moment longer…

It intrigues me that Jesus described his relationship to his followers (and so potentially to us) as one of friendship. Here is the Lord of the universe, who created everything, God incarnate, offering the inexpressibly precious gift of friendship. Perhaps this might have something which will help us with praying more creatively?

If I reflect on my own treasured friendships, I recognize that each one offers me something different. With some, there is a simple shared companionship: sitting together in a garden drinking tea, with few words needed. I remember a recent time in an early morning prayer meeting which (unusually) no-one was at. I said simply to God “Can we just sit here together for a while?” It was a cherished time, needing no words. With others I might walk in a wilder setting: appreciating the beauty of nature with its myriad colours, or laughing at the more peculiar aspects of nature mirroring our own unique idiosyncrasies. So too with God, I can walk in conscious awareness of his presence and listening out for him: (see an earlier blog of mine, ).

Genuine friendship of course needs reciprocity: the risk of vulnerability from both people, even if that takes different forms. Some of our most holy moments in friendship are when we know our friends are taking the risk of abject honesty.  Similarly, at times I can weep, or rage, in prayer in a way I can nowhere else. God’s vulnerability looks different from ours, yet he shares it with us, expressed most vividly at either end of Jesus’ life, both in the helpless dependence of being a baby and in the literal and emotional nakedness of the cross. Such vulnerability can help me feel safe as I gift him mine in prayer.

There are countless other examples: friends I write to, as prayers can be worded, ones I might send photographs to, just as we can create something as a prayer. Then there are those I simply cry for in their pain, as wordless tears are held by God as a prayer for another.

Each of us will possess a unique constellation of friendships. My simple contribution this month is this: let’s each of us take time to contemplate those God has gifted us with. Might this have something to teach us about new ways to engage with him in prayer? And all this becomes possible because God, a better friend even than Bilbo the hobbit, laughs with us, travels with us, challenges us, but always seeks for our best and, in the greatest miracle of all, says of us “this is my friend”.

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1 comment

Glenda Banks September 16, 2016 - 12:22 pm

That was lovely Jeannie. Very thought provoking.

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