Prayer for a Flower

Sequel to the Theology of Friendship

NIKON FE2 + TOKINA 35-135/3.5-5.6 + KODAK SUPRA 400

One of those little things I have observed with people is a paradox in communication and human relationships which can be captured in a little axiom wherein the depth of the relationship is inversely proportional to the shallowness of the subject of their conversation. You know who people are and the kind of relationship they may have when you listen to them talk—businessmen talk about risk and profits; politicians about government and policies; techno geeks about bytes and bandwidth. If there is anything else to their relationship depends on where else the conversation may lead. The rule of the thumb is that the shallower the conversation, the deeper the relationship.

Two people living parallel lives separated by partition walls in office cubicles would talk about work, discuss reports, follow up on projects and nothing more. Two friends in different offices buildings would place bets on a basketball game or gush over the latest celebrity. Two lovers halfway across the world would rack up a phone bill whispering sweet nothings to each other.

Conversations between parents and their kids follow that axiom as well. You can only guess what kind of the relationship they have if all they talk about was how things are doing in school—“You flunked again,” “Why does the principal want to talk to me?” or “Have you done your homework?” But pointless conversations indicate that the parents and children have a lot more in common (“What are we talking about?”—Chicken Little).

Jokes are a good indicator. As people become comfortable with each other, they would recite old Reader’s Digest anecdotes. Grace, intimacy and a deeper relationship can be seen when people start making up their own jokes and stories which now leads to another axiom: intimacy is a waste of time and money (“Myth-making” is one characteristic of community: see M.Scott Peck, The Different Drum, 1989, page 44-45). Formal and work related conversations are succinct and straight to the point. Friends would take afternoons off and over endless rounds of beer or coffee (choose your own addiction) just to prolong a conversation which one wishes never ends. As referred to earlier, there are the lovers who just sit around in each other’s arms listening to each other sigh.

So consider the people in your life and think of what you talk about. That should give you a good sense of who they are to you or where your relationships stand. The conversation with the people you work with may be confined to the agenda and tight business schedules—no room for small talk for time is money. Consider your conversation with friends where the topics are dominated by recreation, the newest gadget, the latest fashion and other things that have no “serious” significance. Then consider the non-conversation you have with your beloved where time is spent holding hands while watching a sunset.

Now consider how our prayers to God sound like. Are they formal and stiff? Or do we go on and on even if nothing is said at all? What kind of relationship would they show? That of business associates? A father and a child? A groom to his bride? To engage in spiritual warfare and intercession is good, it indicates that one has gotten far in advancing the Kingdom of God. To pray for souls to be saved and protection for missionaries and other bearers of the good news shows that one has become part of the Church as it marches on with the Gospel. But if that is all there is to one’s prayers, then all it shows is a formal relationship between a God and his subjects. That is not the conversation a Father would have with a child nor is it the conversation between lovers.

Our conversations with God we have these days sound more like an agenda than anything else. We talk about quotas of souls to be won, projections on churches to be planted, numbers needed to achieve a political lobby, or money needed for the new church building. Beneath all that should be a hidden layer of intimacy. After all, that kind of prayer is meant to be done in secret (Matthew 6:6). It may be wishful thinking, however, because if the businesslike prayer is all there is, then it can be said that the relationship one has with God can be summed up by the speech of the older son in Luke 15:29.

“Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends.”

A paradoxical experience that brought that home to me was when I spent a whole morning in the garden of my favorite convent, where I regularly prayed. I was at a stage in my life where I was discerning where the Lord wants to take me. Up until a certain point, my prayer centered on what I would do next then I spent the rest of my time in silence waiting on the Heavenly Father to lead me to my next work assignment. I should also mention that I usually bring a camera on these trips except for this one occasion where I arrived in time to catch the grass still wet with dew. I sat in silence settling into the Father’s presence, wrapped in the cool air and the quiet around me, when a flower caught my attention. Since I did not have my camera with me, I gazed into it, speechless in more ways than one. Not only was I unable to describe the scene, I had no camera to capture what I saw. Knowing that I only had that moment to relish it (Matthew 6:28-30), I sat in silence and stared in awe into a portal to the heart of the Father. In the His presence where a day is a thousand years, time proverbially flies and soon enough I had to leave the convent. I had to drive down to catch up with a meeting with pastors later that day. Upon my arrival, someone asked where I had been. So I said I just spent the whole morning in a convent.

“So what did you do there?”

“Nothing really. I just prayed.”

“That sounds like a heavy duty prayer time; what were you interceding for?”

“Well…you see…” I mumbled, “There was this…”

“Sounds personal, you have anything you are struggling with?”

“Uh no…there was this…flower. It really looked great,
sayang I did not have my camera. So I just thanked God for the blessing.”

They were aghast; “You mean you drove all the way to Tagaytay and spent the whole morning just to pray for a flower?!”

“Yeah, I guess I should, that was what
my friend showed me.”

I walked away from that conversation and ended the day with a fresh vision of who God is and looked forward to the next Saturday morning with eager expectation on what surprise my friend would bring to me. The awe that comes from that
privilege is unspeakable. It is hard to contain the glory and joy exploding from within your soul when you hear him say; “Hey, son! Look at this flower I made just for you. Isn’t it great?” Oh, I wish I could hear that more often.

I realized that he was there all the time holding out a bouquet of flowers for me except I never paid attention to it because what I had in my mind was what I thought was
his agenda for fixing this world. It was only when I sat long enough with the simple desire to be with him that I was finally where he wanted me to be. Since then, I had sought out and relished the occasions when my Heavenly Father points out in delightful glee the tiny flicker of sunlight refracted on a dew drop on a flower, the unnamed colors in-between the purplish darkening sky, or the pinkish remnant of a sunset’s afterglow rippled by yellow-orange clouds framing the scene. Words can actually get in the way of the warmth welling up from within in your soul and the only response one can say in a prayer is, “Wow!” Nothing more needs to be said. Indeed, nothing more can be said.

The Lover of our Souls longs to have us in his arms; our Heavenly Father eagerly waits to enjoy our company for a little
re-creation if only we would sit still long enough to know that he is God.

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