Thursday, July 7, 2011

Prayer As Particpating With God

The question I have been asking for the last week is, "what's the point in praying?". What's the point? What's it's function? Why do we keep doing it?

While prayer is often thought of as verbal communication between us and God where we petition God, thank God, or praise God, I have come to experience prayer as much more than that. It has to be more than that.

At one point Paul says, "pray without ceasing", and as someone who had always considered prayer to be merely that of what I described above (words to God), I often wrote this verse off as something I just couldn't understand and considered it a task that was impossible and even thought Paul was being a little "holier than thou" going back to his Pharisee days of "look how long I can pray" and "look how spiritual I am."

However, I have began to see that prayer can be much more than a one sided conversation with God, and if I had to give an explanation as to what I thought of prayer it would simply be, "participating with God."

This is something we can do without ceasing. We can be available, be willing, and always be on the lookout for opportunities to participate in the "renewal of all things". Isn't this essentially part of what Jesus tells us to pray when he says, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven"?

In his book, "A Hole in Our Gospel", Richard Stearns writes, "Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when he could do something about it." "Why don't you ask him?" "Because I am afraid he would ask me the same thing."

I think we often forget (or ignore) that one way in which God is working in the world is through human beings, through us. We end up praying and asking for things that we could very well be the answer to.

James puts it like this... What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

I like how Rob Bell said it as well, "Don't pray for God to feed someone, if you have plenty of food."

I believe that prayer allows us to be a part of what God is doing, to participate and co-create with God. This is part of what I see in the text from Exodus I mentioned in yesterdays post. Moses participated and was open to what God was doing. The Exodus story is often referred to as God's deliverance of the Hebrew people. But God accomplished this through Moses.

I think this idea is significant to the words Jesus prayed in the Garden when He said, "yet, not as I will, but as you will." Jesus was making himself available to be used by God and to somehow participate in what God was doing.

I think this is part of what it means to be followers of Jesus, to be willing and to be open to whatever God has for us.

I see prayer as ultimately living out the prayer of Jesus... "Not my will, but your will be done."