Once a month, on a Tuesday, from 12pm-1:30pm, I have Faith Formation. It’s not a class, and I am not sure I even get credit for it. It’s one of those things that “fulfill a requirement”, or so I am told. To be honest, when it first appeared on my calendar, I was not thrilled. Yet another thing to fit into my very busy seminary schedule. I have attended every one of my classes, I have gone to every chapel service that is offered Monday-Thursday, and at night, regularly attend Evening Compline at 10:15pm. I have a Field Education site and have participated in worship every Sunday, and have spent many a night to the wee hours of morning in deep theological discussions with the other seminarians in the lounge of my student housing. My faith is formed, and has plenty of opportunity to be challenged and strengthened. Why do I need to attend Faith Formation?
Reluctantly, I headed to my first meeting. Our small group of five, plus the leader took about thirty minutes to introduced ourselves, and then we began to pray, and pray, and pray. In fact, we prayed for the rest of our time together, almost an entire hour. Apparently, Faith Formation is code for a scheduled time for extended prayer. We prayed prayers of petition and thanksgiving. We prayed for ourselves, for each other, for the school, and for the world; anything that came into our hearts. Our leader read to us, and we meditated on the words from a book of poems, or prayers, or poem prayers...I don’t know, but it was calming, beautiful, and inspiring. While I came into the meeting with doubts, and far too busy of a schedule to sit through something I felt was unneeded, I left with a sense of peace, a renewed energy, and a smile of joy. Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” It is amazing to me that in our hectic world, the key to peace, renewal, and joy is to add “yet another thing” into our schedules...prayer.
It shouldn’t surprise me that a Faith Formation gathering would focus completely on prayer. Prayer is our way, as Christians, to communicate with our Creator, our Parent, our Friend...our God. In whom do we have faith? In what do we have faith? According to Luther, “Faith is permitting ourselves to be seized by the things we do not see.” In prayer, we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives, God’s promise for God’s children, and God’s power in our lives. Through prayer, we are seized by the Spirit that brings comfort, hope, joy, strength, and peace. As a result of prayer, we are called to be the visible presence of God’s promise and power in the world. Prayer centers us, reminds us that we are not alone, and allows us to place our concerns at the feet of our Lord. Through prayer, we are freed from our own burdens, so that we can help others through their struggles and needs. As children of God, we are the answers to the prayers of others, and they can be the answer to ours.
Once a month, I have the opportunity to meet with a few of my classmates, and with the guidance of a remarkable woman of faith, I am able to just sit in silence, focus on what is truly important, pray for myself and others, and be in the presence of God. The rest of the time...I am able to be the hands and feet of my God: learning good, seeking justice, rescuing the oppressed, and helping those in need. (Isaiah 1:17)