Nerves running so high I couldn’t settle. I had no appetite. Have you experienced this kind of physical hijacking? For me it was such a nerve wracking moment. My emotions needed taming, not agitation, not more excitement. If you have been there as I was, you know what my physical body and mind needed was reassurance. And sometimes you just can’t get there by yourself.
Notice the “we” in all of these statements. Romans 15: 1 WE THEN THAT ARE STRONG OUGHT TO BEAR THE INFIRMITIES OF THE WEAK, AND NOT TO PLEASE OURSELVES. 2 LET EVERYONE OF US PLEASE HIS NEIGHBOR FOR HIS GOOD EDIFICATION.
2 Cor 10: 5 WE DEMOLISH ARGUMENTS AND EVERY PRETENSION THAT SETS ITSELF UP AGAINST THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, AND WE TAKE CAPTIVE EVERY THOUGHT TO MAKE IT OBEDIENT TO CHRIST.
The tyranny of emtoions won’t back down sometimes without reassurance. And this is found in community. The other day we were praying just a few of us, and one person said I don’t really feel like praying. And with a simple wisdom the other said, ‘yeah I’ve been there too, and sometimes it’s just good to absorb the atmosphere of prayer.’ It can strengthen you even when you don’t have the words. There is power in the ‘we’.
Eugene Peterson says in ‘Answering God, The Psalms As Tools For Prayer’, ‘But feelings are no more spiritual than muscles. They are entirely physical. They are real and important in the same way that our fingernails… are important– we would not want to live without them( although we could if we had to), but their length and shape and color tell us nothing about our life with God. To suppose that our emotions in any way give us reliable evidence of the nature or quality of our life with God is to misinterpret them. They are wonderful and necessary and glorious.
(Positive emotions in our relationship with God are wonderful much the way you want them in our long term relationships. And going without them isn’t desired. Emotions like having fresh nails is wonderful. However grow out is real, it is nature in action. Life comes at us, emails, conversations, challenging circumstances and emotions ride this roller coaster of life with us. Emotions are changing but they don’t have to rule. Now back to Eugene.)
‘They are part of the rich and stuffing complexity of the human being in the image of God. We must value and develope and share them. But they are not prayer.’
How do we pray with a realness in prayer forgoing a fake external show? Eugene asks this as well. ‘But how do we both affirm our feelings and detach ourselves from them?’
WE DO IT in community. We find all our emotions expressed in some form in the Psalms and throughout the pages of God’s word. God is no stranger to our human struggles. The place of prayer in a community of faith is a reliable source of support. In community we surrender to the order and simplicity of another calling us back to God. In community we take the risk to be vulnerable and ask for prayer. This is the place where our strongholds internally and externally fall. Recovery addicts understand this so well. And we must understand it isn’t just for those in recovery.
Eugene continues to encourage us to submit our lack of hunger to the meal time call of community.
‘We pray not when we feel like it but when someone, the pastor, the priest, the “choirmaster” says, “Let us pray.” We lose nothing of our emotions except their tyranny.’
How do we get past the noise? They say when mining for scientific data, you need to listen for the signal not the noise. The right people help you do that. They help you hear God’s signal amidst all the noise and they help you tame your emotions when you need it most. They help you process. Level heads prevail and we rest, in the company of another praying for us.