Tag Archives: prayer

Prayer

I grew up learning that God always answers prayer. Yes, no, or wait. These were the answers that God gave. Because God always answers prayer. It seems pretty simple and as a neat little formula, it works to explain how “casting our cares” (or wants, wishes, and hopes) out there into the ether could result in them being received by a God who is influenced by my petitions.

How one prays and what prayer means to a person says a lot about who God is to that person. Many, I think, see God as somewhere out there making things happen from his heavenly throne, receiving the prayers of countless worshipers, big enough (or not big enough) to answer them all and respond accordingly. Some would say, pray according to your faith. Expect God to do wondrous things and miracles will happen. Pray “in Jesus’ name” for an extra seal of approval and seek to align yourself with the will of God. Prayer is powerful to move mountains and soften the hardest heart. What it comes down to, most often it seems, is that prayer is transactional, an asking and a receiving, hinged on hope and often destined for disappointment when things don’t go the way we wish.

What I have seen is that people pray for things (with very strong faith, to be sure) and those things do not come to pass… and sometimes they do. And then others don’t pray at all and they are gifted with what many pray so fervently for… and other times they are not. Studies have been done about the power of prayer, yes, and I wonder, is prayer for the one doing the praying, for the one prayed for, or for the one prayed to?

I no longer think of God as a force that is “out there.” As I have come to experience and understand God as Life, as the animating force that sustains, maintains, and contains all things, prayer has changed. What is the will of God when God is infinite, beyond and within time in ways that our linear finite minds could never fully perceive? Will, as we would understand it, would be governed BY time and WITHIN time. God’s knowing, as we would understand it and claim it, would be bound to knowing as we know. I can’t say that this is the case. So praying so as to influence God, or praying so as to better know the will of God, seems like a game of cat and mouse.

Prayer, in it’s essence, is non-linear. I can put so many words to what prayer is not, to how prayer falls short. But attempting to describe prayer that aligns with indwelling Life is to describe an action, an attitude… a way of being. The “will” of God, is what IS. Life happens in its horror and bliss and all is within that Life. To pray is to have our intentions, our desires, our being engulfed, embraced, consumed, and overwhelmed by presence. We don’t cast our prayers out there somewhere… our prayers are taken up and transformed before they ever reach our lips. I do believe prayer is incredibly impactful, not just for our time but for all of time and for all places, but this can only be when God is in all things and all things are in God.

Perhaps we would all do well to release our need to pray with the right words or finding the right things to pray for and just listen for a while. Rather than going through the lists of those we care for and the things we want to see happen in the world, we could breathe… in silence… without the words. When I open my groups or spiritual direction with silence or teaching breathing practice, we are praying, just in a more natural and universal way.

Imagine it like being in the ocean. You could get obsessed with what you are going to do in the water, what kind of floaties you will have with you, how you can boat, swim, or dive. You could analyze and think about all the little parts of the water and the sand and the aquatic life. But you wouldn’t get the same experience as if you stopped and felt the waves on your body, the movement, the ebbing and the flowing. You would be missing something if you didn’t pay attention to being wet, to being weightless, the salt on your lips. Prayer is similar. It is a relationship. Loving affects the lover, the beloved, and all those in their presence.

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Blame, job loss, and the paradoxical way of love

I’ve had a lot of chances to reflect on blame and shame these last couple weeks as I have been laid off along with all the other staff at Common Table, a nonprofit cafe that we all worked at. They needed to make some budget changes so they didn’t keep losing money and most of us, all having put so much soul and energy into the place, find ouselces jobless and unsure where to turn next. A lot of heartbreak all around. My desire, above all else, has been to avoid blaming any one or any group for these changes.

Blame is so easy to do. It is an escape from the mystery of not knowing what god is doing or what I might have to learn or do with the situation at hand. It creates more division and more unhappiness for all involved as it begins a vicious cycle of placing responsibility on others. We want answers and reasons and blaming gives them to us.

Shame is so deeply embedded in our history of religion. It’s easier to look at Jesus’ words as prescriptive and as a way to assure ourselves that we, in our right thinking, are in and others are out. It’s easier to feel ashamed and make others feel ashamed at wrong action than to imagine how god could love us the same no matter what we do. It is harder for us to feel inspired by unconditional love than inspired by god’s wrath or justice.

For this reason, I think it it is imperative that we choose the more paradoxical and love inspired way. Initially more difficult to let go into, we find that once there we have the fresh air of grace and acceptance, not just from God, but towards ourselves and others and from ourselves and others. It is wonderful that Julian of Norwich got this. Not surprising that she got it from a deep prayer and listening rather than from the religious ideas at the time. It is exciting that so many mystics throughout history and other religions get such similar messages from their prayer lives and that they are so often the minority in their traditions.

One year ago… Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology

As I am sitting here at George Fox Sem, I am reminded of these posts from last year. Enjoy!

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. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To read part 1, Starting with Prayer,  GO HERETo read part 2, Prayer and it’s place in the Spiritual Life (pt 2), GO HERETo read part 3, The difficulty of sustaining our prayer life, GO HERE

Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology

Perhaps the one of the most difficult reasons for maintaining a sustainable prayer practice and perhaps one of the most painful parts of being in relationship with a God who is so much greater than any of us. How do I respond to someone who prays for healing of a loved one and does not receive it? How do I respond to someone who prays in his infertility that God would give him children and yet still remains childless? So much pain and so many unknowns…

I do believe that God calls us to compassion and presence, but not necessarily answers. Compassion is entering into the suffering of another, as Jesus entered into our suffering. This is being the presence of Christ to my community. Compassion may very well be just sharing the tears and the burdens while so deeply dwelling in the terrible, “I do not know…” So someone who’s prayers are not answered? It is the spiritual leader’s responsibility to provide compassionate presence… whether it be from myself, or from the community. Again, there are no good answers as to why or how or when or what… It is so much easier to go into this as a leader, even slightly. How much more difficult it is to allow someone to be in their pain, their anger, and their blame! Walter Wangerin, in his beautiful book, Mourning into Dancing, says that we MUST let the griever blame God. Better God blamed than others because God is the only one that can so lovingly take on this blame. This is hard for the spiritual leader trying to give the “right” kind of help.

Unanswered prayer part 2 can be found here.

Unanswered prayer (part 2)

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. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To read part 1, Starting with Prayer,  GO HERE

To read part 2, Prayer and it’s place in the Spiritual Life (pt 2), GO HERE

To read part 3, The difficulty of sustaining our prayer life, GO HERE

To read part 4, Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology, GO HERE

Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology (part 2)

I don’t know God’s reasons for answering or not answering prayer, whether they be earnest, not earnest, Christian, or not Christian. Theologically, I believe a number of things, many of which I mentioned above, that help me in my understanding of God and prayer.

Continue reading Unanswered prayer (part 2)

Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology

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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. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To read part 1, Starting with Prayer,  GO HERE

To read part 2, Prayer and it’s place in the Spiritual Life (pt 2), GO HERE

To read part 3, The difficulty of sustaining our prayer life, GO HERE

Unanswered prayer… a response and a theology

Ah, perhaps the one of the most difficult reasons for maintaining a sustainable prayer practice and perhaps one of the most painful parts of being in relationship with a God who is so much greater than any of us. How do I respond to someone who prays for healing of a loved one and does not receive it? How do I respond to someone who prays in his infertility that God would give him children and yet still remains childless? So much pain and so many unknowns…

I do believe that God calls us to compassion and presence, but not necessarily answers. Compassion is entering into the suffering of another, as Jesus entered into our suffering. This is being the presence of Christ to my community. Compassion may very well be just sharing the tears and the burdens while so deeply dwelling in the terrible, “I do not know…” So someone who’s prayers are not answered? It is the spiritual leader’s responsibility to provide compassionate presence… whether it be from myself, or from the community. Again, there are no good answers as to why or how or when or what… It is so much easier to go into this as a leader, even slightly. How much more difficult it is to allow someone to be in their pain, their anger, and their blame! Walter Wangerin, in his beautiful book, Mourning into Dancing, says that we MUST let the griever blame God. Better God blamed than others because God is the only one that can so lovingly take on this blame. This is hard for the spiritual leader trying to give the “right” kind of help.

Unanswered prayer part 2 can be found here.