Thursday, August 9, 2012

On prayer

The more I think about my faith, the more I see the way in which once-distinct categories are blurred as they are set at the feet of God. Take "grace" for instance. I used to think of grace as only that which stands in the gap between my efforts and God's call. The more I think about grace, however, I realize that it is one of the biggest words I know, and a simple definition does not suffice. In many ways, grace is God's very presence, and I don't know how can pick from among twenty-six letters to describe that sort of thing.

Or take "prayer." I used to know exactly what prayer was. Prayer, as I understood it, was an oratory, private or public, that took the things I wanted and translated them into language God could understand. If you don't pray for it, you won't get it. If this reminds you of a child's conception of Santa Claus, well, I think you've got where I'm coming from.

This kind of laundry list of demands requests is prayer, I suppose, but it is also a misconstrual of creation and my place within it. When I simply tell God what I want God to do, when my only intention is to have God align God's heart to my own desires, I am only taking into account my needs, which while important, are apparently not the only needs around.

There is a connection to tend to, of course. My life is lived in connection with others and in connection with God, and I do not mean to hop up on some mystical, high-brow soapbox. I mean to suggest that rather than being a part of some wonderful, mystical, secret world-consciousness, I am literally in connection (relationship, community) with all that is, all that was, and all that will be. In Christian circles, we call this the great cloud of witnesses. I am affected by these connections, whether I want to admit them or not, and I ignore them at my own peril. If it is true that the church is the body of Christ, and if it is true that all people are God's children (I believe these things very deeply), then God is in these connections, drawing me closer to others, calling me to community. This drawing together is part of prayer, too, for it is an aligning of my heart with the heart of God, which sounds an awful lot like what I want to happen when I pray.

So I am learning to listen, to be in relationship, to see this connection as prayer. It is a scary thing, to be called out of yourself and towards God and others. For one, it means "I am praying for you" is probably a much more powerful statement than we could possibly realize. And though it is difficult, this business of following God, it is my prayer nonetheless.

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