Prayer (Week 2)

30 Jul

Center City is corporately focusing on the topic of prayer this month and reading Mark Batterson’s “The Circle Maker.” In the first section of Batterson’s book he challenges us to dream big. In order to dream big we must first understand the complete “otherness” of God. He is far above and beyond anything we can fathom. He warns us against being prisoners of our left brain (the side that focuses on all things rational and logical). The reality of this God-saturated universe requires much use of our right brain (the seat of our imagination and dreaming). One of my favorite professors from Southeastern, Dr. Waddell, says that the moment you’ve figured out God, he’s no longer God. We have to relentlessly free God from the boxes we’ve put him in. A.W. Tozer was fascinated with this idea. He says that the most important thing about us is what comes to mind when we think about God. Our thoughts about God are of infinite importance. Batterson, paraphrasing Tozer, says that a higher view of God is the solution to ten thousand problems. When we get a fresh revelation of the “otherness” of God, his omnipotent power, and his divine love it will greatly impact our prayer life.

There are so many questions surrounding the topic of prayer. Doubt creeps in regularly. Philip Yancey writes, “Why pray? I have asked myself that question almost every day of my Christian life, especially when God’s presence seems far off and I wonder if prayer is a pious form of talking to myself.” I have asked myself at times “What if prayer doesn’t change anything?” But as Dallas Willard puts it, you should always doubt your doubt. What if prayer does change things? What if God does hear and respond to us? All of this is a mystery. Batterson says that we will not always know the will of God and we can’t be sure God will answer our prayer. What is most important is that we pray and believe that He is ABLE.

But what does this mean in practice? Richard Foster has a wonderful first chapter in his book “Prayer” about simple prayer. He says that we often have a love/hate relationship with the practice of prayer. This tension is usually because we are trying to pray perfectly. We attempt to pray with perfect theology, without any hint of cloudy motives, and with rigid discipline. Foster says, “…we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives–altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture.” C.S. Lewis encourages us to “lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.” There is no pretension in prayer. God sees us for who we are. We don’t have to come to God as a blameless over-achiever. He frees us to come to him as we are–sinners and sons.

We must re-define prayer. Prayer is not simply an act of language. Prayer is a turning of our attention toward the Creator-God. Thus, prayer is not defined by the words we speak but the posture of our heart. Our desire to pray may in fact be prayer. Desire should give birth to action. Foster says we should not seek any ecstatic experience in prayer. We need only to come to God with simple faith knowing we are his beloved children.

“My heart is not proud, O Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Psalm 131:1-2

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