Thursday, July 03, 2014

Prayer as Accepting God's Invitation to the Big Dance (Prayer Summer 2014)

Sleeping Bears Dunes, Michigan
For the past four decades Tuesday has been my extended prayer day. I get to go to a quiet place, apart from distractions, and converse and confer with God, 1-on-1, for several hours.                                                                          
As I meet with God here are some things about prayer that are important to me.

  1. God exists. God is real. There is a God. I believe in God. Without this prayer is an illusion. With this I view myself, in the act of praying, as keeping company with the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, necessarily existent (everlasting; without beginning or end), personal agent who created and sustains all things. This is no small appointment I have!
  2. God is a personal being. God desires relationship. The Christian idea of God as a Trinity makes sense of God as essentially relational. God, in His being, is 3-Relating-Persons-in-One. (I confess that I do, very much, like The Shack[1] on Trinitarian theism.) God as a 3-Personed Being makes conceptual sense of the idea that God is love. Everlastingly the Father has been loving the Son, the Son the Spirit, the Spirit the Father, and round and round in the Big Dance (perichoresis). To pray is to accept God's invitation to the Big Dance.
  3. God made me. For what? For relationship with him. God, who is a relational being in essence, desires relationship. He made me for such a thing as this. When I pray I am living in the heart of God's desire for me.
  4. God knows me.
  5. God loves me.
  6. Put 4 and 5 together and you'll begin singing "Amazing Grace" accompanied by tears of gratitude and joy.
  7. God desires me to love and know Him in return.
  8. This is where prayer comes in. Prayer is talking with God about what God and I are doing together. To pray is to enter into a loving-knowing relationship with God.
  9. When I talk with God in prayer I often begin by asking God a question – “God, is everything all right between You and me?” This is the "Search me, O God" moment. Then I listen. If God shows me something that’s breaking relationship with Him, I confess this to Him. It then becomes God’s delight to forgive me. God loves doing this because God is love. God desires to heal anything that breaks relationship. (Note: God’s grace is amazing but it’s not cheap. It will cost me something to be in relationship with God. This should not surprise me, since it will cost me something to be in real relationship with anyone. Love is sacrifice. There are no exceptions to this.)
  10. In prayer I talk to God. I express my love to God, and my concerns. I don’t hesitate to ask for my own self if my request is kingdom-advancing. This is called “petitionary prayer.” I meet some people who feel odd about asking for their own self. That feeling is not from God. I also pray for others. This is called “intercessory prayer.” 
  11. In prayer I listen to God. When God speaks to me, I write it down. I keep a spiritual journal, which is a record of the voice and activity of God to me. I will remember the things God speaks to me. God's history with me is more precious than things and accomplishments.
  12. I have found that God has much to say to me – today. I take "This is the day the Lord has made" seriously. Today is the day of breakthrough for me. 
  13. God has plans and purposes for me, which have to do with His Kingdom and His righteousness. I will seek these two things in the first place. Then God will add all good things unto me. (“Good” = the kind of things God values, things like love and honor and reconciliation and joy and peace and compassion and real, authentic relationship.)
There is no formula for this because prayer is relationship with God. There is more to prayer-as-relationship than these things. Yet these are essentials that apply to all strong relationships: listening, understanding and being understood, and of course love.

I will pray, with these things in mind, today.

[1] William Young, The Shack