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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Prayer Posts and Prayer Dares #10

The prayer posts just keep on coming.

I had a wonderful talk with a woman today who I respect as a constant pray-er. She had some questions about my blog posts and we shared a bit more of our prayer journey together. We saw eye to eye on most things and disagreed on some others. That was okay for both of us because we are both committed to the process of learning. I hope these posts are inviting you into that process as well. Please comment.

In the course of the conversation, she asked if I would expand my thoughts on the purpose of prayer and the validity of it. Fair enough. The last thing I want anyone to think is that I don’t believe prayer has purpose. Oh, Lord, if that has come across in any way please help me hone my speech more accurately.

I have read back over my posts again and I don’t take back any words. What I do want to communicate loud and clear is that while I tend to poke fun at “us” and laugh at myself and question the way we promote prayer, it is all in a spirit of seeking God and understanding Him. My burden is for myself, my friends, those I am in relationship with, and my church.

  • I don’t want to play Christian
  • I don’t want to lead new believers in the wrong direction with prayer expectations
  • I don’t want to clutter up prayer with bogus language
  • I want prayer to mean something.
  • I want prayer to change us.
  • I want prayer to draw us closer to God.
  • I want prayer to not be a thing we do but rather a place we exist.
I want to be part of the everyday kingdom, meet needs and have mine met, be forgiven, learn to forgive, receive protection and deliverance and experience rescue like Jesus said I could experience and know through prayer (Our Father Who art in heaven . . .)

Jesus taught us to pray. Paul told us to do it always. Heroes of the faith modeled it.

As we talk about prayer, what it is, what it is not, what we get tired of, and the questions we have of prayer, etc. I pray (seriously) we don’t overlook the magic of prayer.

When I say “magic” I do not mean it in the sense of an incantation. I do not mean we somehow control God. I do not mean we summon his presence.

I mean there is something about prayer we can’t explain. And, when we are obedient in it, as it changes us, as we become part of the praying community, as we open up to God, things happen . . . magical things.

I feel the same way about the sacraments. We explain them away in an effort to help people understand and sometimes run the risk of stripping them of their magic.

For instance, when it comes to Holy Communion (Eucharist, Lord’s Table, etc.) some believe in consubstantiation (the body is somehow actually present with the bread and wine). Some believe in transubstantiation (the bread and wine actually literally become the body and blood). Some believe communion is simply a memorial act.

It is good to discuss all those things but it is far better to simply be obedient in participating in it. Whatever it is that “happens” during communion, we cannot dismiss the otherworldly magic there is in participating in something that saints for thousands of years have done before us. Every one on the same playing field. To each the same portion.

Baptism is much the same. Whether one believes it is a public proclamation, a right of passage into a community, or it confers grace on an individual, no one should deny the act of obedience in baptism carries with it a certain unmistakable magic for the individual being baptized—and even those observing the event. Something happens to us when we are baptized. Period.

I am currently reading the novel Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The scene is 19th Century Britain and all magic has been reduced to an art that is “studied” and “talked about” by gentlemen who know the craft yet don’t practice it. The story follows a younger new magician who apprentices under someone with a rather “restrictive” view of magic but breaks free on his own to create a whole new age of magic. One review of the novel stated Clarke “manages to portray magic as both a believably complex and tedious labor, and an eerie world of signs and wonders where every object may have secret meaning.”

Sometimes, we reduce prayer to the old magic. We talk about. We study it. But doing it . . .

I love how N.T. Wright describes prayer as standing at a fault line between two worlds that have converged—heaven and earth. And standing at the fault line with Jesus is sometimes magical.

I believe in things unseen. I believe in peace that passes understanding. I believe in perspective. I believe in partnering in a kingdom venture with God. I believe in deliverance. I have seen people healed in times of prayer. I believe prayer changes me. Changes us.

In conclusion (for now) I do not believe prayer is a numbers game, I do not believe we can conjure or manipulate God, I do not believe God heals every wound in this life through prayer, I don’t believe God “promised” us to move according to our prayers . . .

But, I cannot deny the magic.

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