In Germany, the ancient legend of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa persists. According to lore, Barbarossa never died but continues to watch over his kingdom from his stone table in the mountains. For centuries now, Barbarossa “has slumbered away,” his intermittent blinking and nodding the only signal that “breath” still flows in his lungs.”
Too many of us live like Barbarossa: alive, but just barely. We live nothing like Paul encouraged us to—prayerfully “watchful” (or “alert”) for the signs of God’s movement. Too often, we numbly fulfill our responsibilities to family and church and work. We “punch the clock.” Living (if you can call it that) this way, we are not alive to the people or the world or the wonder all around us. We are not attuned to God’s surging activity.
For Paul, the posture of prayer helps us resist a listless or self-absorbed existence (Colossians 4:2). Prayer is a way for Jesus’ followers to be alert, attentive, and engaged, living with wide-eyed expectancy to see where God is at work (v.3).
Is this how you have always viewed prayer? I haven’t. In my experience, prayer has often lacked that alert, engaged edge. Too often, I’ve viewed prayer as a soft, pious activity placing me in a quiet space where I meditate on “heavenly truths” and sublime notions, an exercise that actually removes me from striving to “proclaim [God’s] message” (v.4) to the world.
Further, I’ve even twisted prayer so that it provides detachment from chaos or pain—”I’ll pray for you” is my escape more than a genuine commitment to intercede on another’s behalf.
Prayer is far more dangerous than those skewed perspectives. Prayer prods me to be awake to God’s work. I echo Robert Benson’s desire voiced in Living Prayer, “It is a life lived at attention that I seek.”
Where are you most numb and disengaged in life? How can you begin to experience God’s activity in that place?
Taken from “Our Daily Journey”