I very rarely write in series unless it is a sequence of reflections on a trip, but today I want to begin some very honest posts about prayer. You may disagree – that’s ok. I just need to put some things out there…some are confession, some are conviction, some are concepts I’m trying to get a better handle on. I am certainly no expert. I’m not trying to fix you, so feel free to comment but refrain from trying to fix me. Rather…think with me…pray with me…consider what prayer is and isn’t with me.
This semester I have a course on prayer. Maybe that sounds strange, but it has come at a very good time for me. You see, I think I have an odd relationship with prayer. While I have drawn close to God through prayer and know I’ve been blessed by His activity through prayerful people, I get frustrated with what prayer can become.
Augustine said, “True whole prayer is nothing but love.” But there is a dark side to prayer. It can be used. Used as a coverup. (we don’t need to pray about whether to be forgiving or generous or compassionate – He’s already answered that) Used to keep things superficial. (how many times can we pray for aunt Bertha’s bunions) Used to distract from what’s going on at a deeper level. (remember Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector) Used to establish a pecking order. (long prayers filled with fancy language flourish as much today as they did in the 1st Century)
At a young age I was told to pray and I believed I should. Then when I got older I was told I should pray more and I believed I could. Now at middle age having been a Christian most of my life…I refuse to reduce prayer to a good luck charm; getting the things I want, having life go smoothly, and finding a parking place near the door. I recoil at the notion that the pinnacle of prayer is sitting in a circle repeating the list of requests again, only this time with our eyes closed and our voices sounding louder and more religious.
In Binding the Strong Man, Ched Meyers said, “To pray is to learn to believe in a transformation of self and world, which seems, empirically, impossible – as in moving mountains.” This is the type of prayer that I’m interested in. Something that transforms my life not simply something that is tagged onto the rest of my life.