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By Heidi De Jonge
The place of prayer.
There is the place of pastoral prayer:
A hospital room.
A living room.
A parking lot.
There is the place of personal prayer:
The left side of the love seat in our living room, journal open on my lap.
The end of the seventh pew from the back of the sanctuary on the north side, next to the window.
The car, with the radio turned off.
The Heidelberg Catechism says that the place of prayer, wherever it happens, is of utmost importance. Prayer is “the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us” and we need to do it “because God gives God’s grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly” (Lord’s Day 45, Q&A 116).
The place of prayer can be a physical space. Or a rank in a list of priorities.
There is another way of thinking about the place of prayer.
My spiritual director, Sister Lucy Bethel SP, will often say to me (after listening to me for a good long while), “This is the place of prayer.”
When Sister Lucy and I are together, we pay attention to when I say things like, “I don’t want to be like that. That’s not who I am.” Ah… the place of prayer. When the way that you are behaving or thinking does not match the way that you want to be behaving or thinking, this is the place of prayer.
Or when one strong value in my life bumps up against another, this is the place of prayer. For example, when my commitment and desire to DO THE HARD THINGS bumps up against my commitment and desire to PARTICIPATE IN THE ABUNDANT LIFE OF JESUS and it just doesn’t seem like I can live into both of these values… this is the place of prayer.
These places of prayer are filled with silence and inward groans. In this kind of prayer place, one holds the tensions of life before the face of God, and ultimately, receives and remembers one’s identity as God’s child, as the Father’s beloved, as Jesus’ redeemed and called disciple.
The doorways to these places of prayer open in parking lots and hospital rooms, in church pews and cars, by gravesides and bedsides.
And by the grace of God, the one who opens the door to these places and dwells with us there is none other than the Holy Spirit.
We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship…
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit,
because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people
in accordance with the will of God.
Romans 8:23, 26-27
Heidi S. De Jonge the pastor of Westside Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Kingston, Ontario. She has been in ministry for 12 years. Her husband, Tim, is a CRC chaplain, serving in long term care, and together they parent three grade school daughters. Heidi enjoys cake decorating, cycling, and digital scrapbooking.
Image: The Brink, Tangled Light, by Beth Fletcher