Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Problem with Prayer

Henri Nouwen, in his book The Way of the Heart, speaks of two main problems pastors have when we think about prayer.  We consider prayer to be talking to God, but we don't get a response.  Or we consider prayer to be thinking about God, but that wears down over time.  He suggests to think about prayer as appreciating God's presence and being, to get out of the intellect.

I've never reached the place where I experience God's presence and being in prayer.  Maybe I need to try harder, or that's just not what I'm looking for.  I am certainly in the "talking with God" category, but I rarely have the difficulty of not having a full conversation.

In a purely selfish way of looking at prayer, which seems to be how Jesus approaches it, prayer is requesting a more powerful lord for a boon (for example Luke 11:1-13).  We are requesting something.  Sometimes this prayer is found in a formal request, but sometimes this prayer is in a life of dependence on God.  

Jesus promises us that if we pray in this way (life and request) God will provide us with three things:
1. Our basic needs (Matthew 6:25-34)

2. The power to love others (Mark 11:24-25)

3. Wisdom (Matthew 10:19-20)

These are three main categories that the Holy Spirit works in us, which makes sense, since Jesus said that prayer results in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

I live the life of radical faith.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to descend.  But I daily have trouble loving.  I daily struggle with any wisdom that would be helpful.  Why should I pray when my prayers are not answered?  I have no control over my reactions, which the Spirit is supposed to grant me.  So why pray?

When I speak to God, for the last six months, he's only told me one thing: Rest.  It is as if he's been saying, "Your head is addled by too much work, too many needy people, too many issues, too much suffering.  It is time to find your calm."

Of course prayer won't do me any good if I have no context in which prayer can work.  I have no fertile soil for the seed of prayer to grow.  I need silence, I need solitude.  From there the Holy Spirit can grow love and wisdom.

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