The Mystery of Prayer

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So much of this kingdom-living life is mystifying.
We are given a magnificent vision of being made priests and kings. We are told to go out into the world and live in a way that brings God’s rule to earth and creation’s praise to heaven.
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So much of the time we wander around, having no earthly idea what to do.
Yet here we are.
This is our mission whether or not we understand it completely.
This is our goal whether or not we can perceive the next step.
This is our purpose and we may not set it aside every time we fail to discern the way forward.
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Part of the answer to finding our way is in prayer.
Prayer itself is a mystery, however central to our lives as Christ followers. Perhaps it wouldn’t be prayer without also being a mystery.
Yet it is a mystery we can, in our own fumbling way, find the shape of. This mystery of prayer has the shape of heaven and earth joining together in Jesus and our sharing in that joining through the Spirit.
The very act of prayer says that we stand in the space between heaven and earth. Prayer says that, in some mysterious way, we are called to stand for God on earth and to stand for creation in heaven.
But again the very practice of prayer, before we even begin to think about the content, says in and of itself: we are people who live at the interface between God’s world and the life of this present world. We are people who belong in that uncomfortable borderland. We are called to stay at this post even when we have no idea what’s actually going on. ~ N.T. Wright, After You Believe
Remaining at our post even when we have no idea what’s actually going on takes humility and patience. It takes faith and hope. It takes the living out of virtue, as I discussed recently.
Yet doing this, remaining at our post, continuing to pray even when you don’t understand how any of it works or what on earth you are supposed to say, trains our hearts.
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Even if we gain no clarity at all, our hearts are being trained in humility and patience, in faith and hope.
Prayer changes us. It is a piece of what transforms us into the people God created us to be.
Prayer is one of the disciplines which, when practiced regularly both in public and in private, builds our character, habit by habit and virtue by virtue, into the royal priesthood through which God will restore the world.
But it means that we come to prayer knowing that we’re to reinforce the heart habits that make us, by second nature, who we are. And we rise from prayer with the heart formed that bit more securely in its settled second nature of trust and obedience. ~ N.T. Wright, After You Believe

 

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Our Prayer for the New Year

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

We live in a weary world.
Our world searches for light, searches for hope.
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We who have the light and hope to offer…
…do we?
Our world behaves foolishly as it clutches after joy, looks frantically for peace.
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We who have knowledge to share of joy and peace in desperate circumstances…
…do we?
Do we shine out the light of the world in rejoicing or shutter it in fear?
Why would we do that? How selfish must we be to withhold life from a dying friend out of fear for ourselves?
Yet we do.
I do.
As we begin a new year, as we close out the old, could we who are light bearers join together in prayer?
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Could we pray together that God would give us boldness and courage, that He would give us words to say and opportunities to say them, that He would help us to behave wisely and to love well?
Oh, Lord, our God. We are yours. We say to you along with Mary, Behold, we are the servants of the Lord. Do with us what you will.
Amen.

Prayer

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.
Prayer.
This one word means so many different things.
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Asking. Adoration. Doubt. Despair. Confidence. Confusion.
We pray with expectation; we pray with hopelessness.
We pray in altruism; we pray in selfishness.
We pray boldly stepping up to the throne; we pray pessimistic, not expecting a favorable answer.
Prayer.
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Regardless of how you view it, aside from what you expect from it, no matter how you approach it, the Bible is clear.
We must pray.
From seek and you will find to the story of the widow who bothered the judge enough that he finally gave her justice, we are told to take everything to God in prayer. Everything.
Whatever else prayer is, if we are praying without ceasing, the words we offer to God permeate everything we do, everything we are.
Whatever else prayer does, if we continually give our hearts to God, we end up also offering our selves to others.
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If we offer our prayers to God while we offer ourselves to others, the power of God acts as a wireless network, acting for others to give rescue, healing, comfort, light.
As we offer our prayers to God, we become less ourselves and more a piece of a whole. A whole that covers the whole earth, bringing God’s love and kingdom to all.
We are woven into the fabric of God’s power and love, becoming a part of bringing His kingdom to earth, a part of His restoring of creation.
It (prayer) moves from God to others through us, because we have ceased to be self-centered units, but are woven into the great fabric of praying souls, the “mystical body” through which the work of Christ on earth goes on being done. ~ Evelyn Underhill (Christian philosopher and writer, early 1900’s)
All because of prayer.

Art credit: Gethsemane painting by Carl Bloch

Speaking With My Father

They speak to me about cookies and caring, about flowers and family, about Legos and love in action.
My Girls
They speak almost continually, telling stories and asking questions, needing to know and wanting me to know.
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Their speaking to me is simplicity itself.  They feel curious and they ask, they become excited and they tell, they are frightened and they listen.  They speak what is in their hearts and minds, and they listen to my answers and my reassurances.
 You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
I do not speak to my Father with such simplicity.
Praying
I worry that I do not ask for the right things, I fear that my attitude is faulty, I think I know that I am not silent enough.
Should I pray “I thank You that You hear me” or “let Thy will be done”?  I do not know which is right.
Shall I pray in gratitude for beauty given to me while others are mired in ugliness all around?
If I ask for hard things to be removed am I being ungrateful for the maturity that hard things bring?
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
They do not worry if the way in which they speak with me is good.  They do not stumble over words, attempting to choose just the right ones.
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When they ask for wrong things, when they speak ugly thoughts, when they refuse to listen, I love them.
I help them know which way to ask, how best to speak, and I love them.
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When they are frightened or upset, when they do not know the words they need, I search their hearts and interpret, and I love them.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
I am grateful for their simplicity.
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I know them.  I know their hearts, and want them to know me.  No anger or disappointment comes when error is made.  I love for them to speak easily, not fearful over content or word choice, but simply speaking and listening, learning to know and to be known.
You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”…And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
May I, like them, speak simply, without worry or fear, learning to know, and resting in the peace of being known and being loved.
Helping Our Kids
*Scriptures are taken from Romans 8.14-30*