Friday, November 01, 2013

Prayer as God-Encounter and Self-Shatterer (PrayerLife)

Monroe County
James Houston writes: "Prayer will always remain a vague, safe exercise until we are impacted by God. This happens when we stop looking at ourselves through the mask that we like to wear for other people, and start to see ourselves as God actually sees us." (Houston, The Transforming Power of Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God, 62)

If prayer is talking with God about what we are doing together, then surely prayer is qualitatively different from talking with humans. In prayer we meet with the omni-attributed Maker of heaven and earth. Part of the prayer experience is, says Houston, "shocking." He writes:

"To be a Christian means to be "shocked" by Christ. He has encountered us. Our defenses have been shattered. We have heard the shocking call to abandon our much-loved securities and to follow him. The cult of self-fulfillment, which makes us so selfish and self-directed, creates a brittleness in us that simply shatters when we meet God personally." (63)

Consider, for example, the rich young man who meets Jesus, and is called to leave all his possessions to follow Him. When Jesus said this, "the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." (Mark 10:22)

Houston writes that a "shattering of our personality is essential before we can follow God and become intimate with him in prayer. We cannot behave before God as we behave with other people, even when the ploys we use are amusing or winningly attractive. Our mask may be beautifully made, drawing admiration from everyone who sees it - but it is still a mask, and it must go." (63)

At one of our HSRM conferences years ago George Otis was the speaker. I've never forgotten how he referred to the presence of God as the "earth-shattering presence of God." To authentically pray is to enter into this reality.