Thursday, January 05, 2006

Oremus

To pick up where I left off... For the longest time I have had a problem with prayer, as described in my blog post from July. And yet throughout the Bible we are exhorted to pray. Jesus says "WHEN you pray," not IF, and then gives instructions. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. Paul says "Pray without ceasing." So my struggle is this- I know that I need to pray, yet I have issues with praying for things, because there doesn't seem to be much of a point. You pray for healings, but for as many people that do get healed, more people suffer and die. Or they get healed in a year, although in the natural process of things they would have been healed anyway. You pray for people that genuinely need certain things, and they don't get them. I just don't get it.

Part of the answer came when I realized that maybe, just maybe, I needed to change my definition of what prayer is. We come to God with our shopping lists and then don't come back unless we have another list. I realized that if my children only came to me when they wanted something, and no other time, my experience as a parent would be cut short. There are times when my son just crawls up on my lap, curls up against me and watches the game with me. It doesn't matter what game, he has no sense of what constitutes "the big game" as opposed to one between two 1-10 teams; spending time with me is the experience he seeks. And it is that experience that defines the joy of being a parent for me. So should we always present God with our wants? Shouldn't we just crawl up into his lap sometimes and express our love?

A couple of years ago I went to a Catholic charismatic conference and heard a speaker named Ralph Martin. He has been a leader in Catholic renewal since the charismatic movement started in 1967, yet in the last several years he has concentrated on the spirituality of the saints. The talk I heard was on the stages of union with God according to the writings of St. Theresa of Avila, and it was fantastic. It opened my mind to the possibility that I've had it all wrong; that the goal of prayer is union with God, and the presenting of our petitions is peripheral to this central purpose.

Within the same timeframe I was introduced to the teachings of Mike Bickle. Mike has made the focus of his ministry exhorting Christians to seek the face of the Lord and pray what David prayed in Psalm 27:4- "...one thing I ask, this one thing I seek, that I may behold the beauty of the Lord….” He views the Song of Solomon in an allegorical format popular with the early Church fathers, teaching that the bridegroom represents Jesus and the bride represents the church, and Jesus longs to draw us to himself in a relationship of love. Prayer in this paradigm is not simply airing our requests and grievances, although intercession is certainly a part, but sitting at the feet of Jesus as Mary did while Martha busied herself with the tasks of everyday life.

And then there is Witness Lee. Witness Lee uses the phrase "the economy of God" to stress that God's central plan is to dispense himself into his chosen people, the church. Our goal above all other things is to dwell in our spirit where Christ has made his home, and from that ground all other things have their growth.

So to answer the question "has Sean given up prayer?", the answer is "no, with qualifications." I pray that I would experience and enjoy the love of God in the same way that my son and daughter enjoy my love. I pray that the stages of illumination, purgation and union would be a reality in my own spiritual life and not just a theory to be studied in a textbook. But I haven't gotten through my difficulties with intercession. I try to believe that my requests are heard; at this point I just can't. Of course, if I understood all things, faith wouldn't be necessary.

______________________________
I've been out in a cave
For forty days
Only a spark
To light my way
I wanna give out
I wanna give in
This is our crime
This is our sin

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the pain
And the grief
Through the lies
Through the storms
Through the cries
And through the wars
Oh, I still believe

Flat on my back
Out at sea
Hopin' these waves
Don't cover me
I'm turned and tossed
Upon the waves
When the darkness comes
I feel the grave

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the cold
And the heat
Through the pain
And through the tears
Through the crowds
And through the cheers
Oh, I still believe

I'll march this road
I'll climb this hill
Down on my knees if I have to
I'll take my place
Up on this stage
I'll wait 'til the end of time
For you like everybody else

I'm out on my own
Walkin' the streets
Look at the faces
That I meet
I feel like I want to go home
What do I feel
What do I know

But I still believe
I still believe
Through the shame
And through the grief
Through the heartache
Through the years
Through the waiting
Through the years

For people like us
In places like this
We need all the hope
That we can get
Oh, I still believe
---The Call, "I Still Believe"

1 Comments:

Blogger Audrey Shaffer said...

Hi Sean,

I used to go to God with lists too. I learned a hard lesson when I got what I prayed for, and it turned out to be nothing like I thought it would be.

Now, I don't "officially" pray. I talk to God constantly, like he's a friend in the same room. I have learned to discuss my problems and ask him for help with them, without telling him what outcome I want. I've learned that I don't always know what's best for me, but he does.

Thanks for visiting my blog! It's nice to find agreement on the web. :)

7:11 PM  

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