Folks, I want what I do to be for the village… the community… the place where the spiritual unites with the physical.
So, for me, taking classes at George Fox Seminary to get my certificate in spiritual formation is about more than just me. I am doing it because it is what I must do… for the community and for God.
I recently finished my semester paper for my class on prayer and as I wrote it with the community in mind it is important for me to share it here. I will be posting it up in sections over the next week or so.
Before I begin, it is very important for me to note the context of my ministry setting. I am involved in building and connecting people into more sustainable and mature community within the city of Bend, OR. Bend is overall 85% non-Christian and my direct community is 98% non-Christian. Many are extremely spiritual and committed to their path, but are much more likely to practice their spirituality in the yoga studio or the woods. That being said, most of them know me as a follower of Christ, and so my thoughts in this paper will come from a perspective of Christian foundation, but I may use words that are not commonly used in traditional churches. I will also use scripture strongly, but not quote the specific verse reference, as my audience, an “ordinary person who comes seeking God in my ministry environment” probably would not benefit from the verse citing that would happen in a church context.
Biblical and Theological Prayer and its place in Christian life
Prayer is the interaction and conversation with the divine presence or mystery who exists in infinite relational love, revelation, and transcendence and who has been in relation with humanity since our entrance into the cosmic creation. For the follower of Christ, prayer is essential in our journey to grow into the divine likeness and the image of Christ (Peter and Paul) and to better understand the God whom we worship and serve as we also understand God’s presence through the spirit in us.
In the scriptures, we learn that God, who expresses God’s self in relationship (the Trinity), has created us in his likeness, therefore designing us inherently to be fulfilled in relationship, with him and with each other. Because of this, humanity is on a perpetual quest for fulfillment in relationship, an eternal journey to love and be loved, to know and be known. Prayer, while an interaction with the self and the divine, is to be balanced in solitude and the community.
We have seen in the Hebrew scriptures, and continue to see in the history of global humanity, a constant desire to commune and connect with this divine other who continually makes his presence known through human beings, the natural world, and other mysterious and unexplainable occurrences. The entire Jewish story of promise, covenant, politics, and persecution is one of a people trying to understand, explain, and follow (or not follow) Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God. Prayer was very much a conversation with a God who was very much a mystery, often wrathful towards sin, and jealous towards those who were in his service. At the same time, Yahweh was merciful to those who followed his commands, very present amongst his people (specifically in the tabernacle), and who could indeed change his mind or be persuaded through intense prayer and service. Prayer was extremely important in the Jewish spiritual life as they sought the will and direction, or to influence, the one true God.