It is simply a fact that many Christians have stopped praying for others. It just doesn’t make sense any more. We don’t mind meditating, but that old-time word, “intercession,” doesn’t work for us.
So, in these posts we’re tinkering with our images of God, and wondering together if there is a way this kind of prayer could make sense again.
Regular readers will not be surprised that I’ll begin with some review and context-setting before actually addressing the question at hand.
Julie, a regular reader, posted on Facebook that this issue is on the front burner in her life, and she wants me to hurry. Oh, sister! Settle in. This may take a while <grin>.
Another thing regular readers will recall, is that one of our bedrock Christian, Jewish, and even Muslim beliefs is the doctrine of God’s transcendence. God is beyond our capacity to contain. When we reduce God to something we can hold (even in our heads), this is the arrogance the ancients used to call “idolatry.”
Every Christian who takes the doctrine of transcendence seriously is in a very real way, an agnostic. We just do not know. We cannot speak with any certitude, about the nature of the Divine.
We regularly experience the Divine, but cannot define it. We experience God the same way we do the wind. We sense wind. It moves us. We cannot contain either, but their movement touches us, stirs us, transforms us.
We experience God-movement, but whenever we talk about God, our words come up short. Our images are always inadequate, always partial, always incomplete.
So, even favored images… like “our Father who art in heaven,” are deeply lacking.
Some posts ago I suggested another way of thinking about God; a way that takes into account the connectedness of everything.
It is just as much of our heritage to think of God as a substrate reality that is in, around, above, below, and connected to everything… as it is to think of God as a Father, way out there in heaven.
In fact, we broaden our experience of God when we anticipate Divine experience always being Present in everything.
As experiencable in wind and waves… as in a cathedral.
As experiencable in rocks and trees… as in a sermon.
As experiencable in each moment; each circumstance… as in a prayer.
“God in us… and us in God.” That’s the way Paul talked about it.
“One with God the way he was one with God.” That’s how Jesus prayed.
“The breath of God animating our very beings.” That’s how Genesis tells the Story.
If we take this part of our tradition seriously, we gravitate toward different ways of thinking about God… which in turn gives us different ways of praying for one another.
So … the proofreading “help” …
It’s a big fat no then? Darn!
I’m just kidding. I think it’s good to go slow. I have been reading about prayer for over a year. I haven’t found a lot of what I’ve read helpful – interesting and slightly scary maybe, but not super helpful. I am just at the point of saying to myself, “Stop trying to figure it out and just go with it.” Going with it feels very much like letting something happen. Just pray. Don’t try to not pray and don’t force yourself to pray a certain way. As you said happens in the last post, at some point, I stopped saying prayers. Somehow, it doesn’t feel quite right to start again. One thing I read talked about prayer as a kind of constant communication that just happens. In my childhood, I learned that prayer was a desire of your heart whether uttered or unuttered. So, maybe it’s like you can’t help but to pray. Maybe you can’t not. Maybe it’s like it just constantly happens – sometimes with words or sometimes without them. Maybe it happens even if we don’t even realize it or acknowledge it as prayer. Maybe it’s like gravity. It holds us and keeps us grounded – rooted in the soil. I don’t know, but for now, I might just go with that.
I’m looking forward to reading what you write in the next few weeks.
it would be helpful to me to know the stuff you’re reading about prayer that you find scary.
expand on that?
Doug’s point is well taken. It seems that the religious presentation of ideas has supplanted the context of the ideas presented by Jesus. The idea of an abiding relationship with Father God in whom all men live, move and have their being and the establishing of God’s Kingdom on earth continuing to an eventual dominance of the Kingdom of God upon this earth would correct some of this.
Julie’s point is also well taken and a continuation of the previous idea. Jesus seemed to model both methods of prayer by drawing away into seclusion at times as well as consistantly cultivating an awareness of the perceptable presence of Father God. It seems that Jesus and the scriptures teach that both practices are required to be an effective disciple.
there should be a “like” button on blog comments.
we are going toward the “live, move, and have being” way of thinking about our presence in and of god.
which will affect how we think about prayer.
I guess it’s unusual, but I never had a “picture” of God as a super-sized Michelangelo-like father or as any kind of “being” at all. I don’t recall feeling the need for an image, but now that we are trying to let go of the father image, I find myself frustrated by not having something to try to let go of.
Scary might be the wrong word. I am scared off by the way a lot of books are written. I reject the style more than the content. I close up the books that speak with authority on how to pray or the books that make promises about what you’ll get in return for prayer. So, it’s more like I just choose not to read some of what I’m seeing out there. That’s probably not very helpful. I’d have to go back to the library to find the book that talked about the self-sacrificial nature of true prayer. That was one time I shut down over content. I didn’t like the dismissive nature of what I was reading. I know and love lots of people who say prayers of desire that aren’t particularly self-sacrificing. (“Dear God please let me get this job or have a baby or meet someone who will love me.”) To suggest that their prayers are not true? I don’t know what you call that kind of prayer, but untrue or false doesn’t seem right. That didn’t scare me, but I just didn’t feel like reading about that anymore. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the really scary stuff and let you know.
Well, isn’t that just the pot calling the kettle black? I’ll just go ahead and dismiss all this stuff that’s dismissive! I guess I’ll be headed back to the library now. There was probably a lot to what the author was saying about self-sacrifice (letting go and accepting), but I refused to hear it because of the word true. I find it scary when someone starts talking about the truth – in this case he was using the term true prayer. I sometimes just can’t get around myself. At least I don’t get mad anymore. I just shake my head and say, “this book is not for me.” This is what I like about your style and why I feel impatient. You invite us to talk and think with you. Prayer. I think it’s worth talking and thinking about. So, thank you. As always. (is it Thursday yet?)