Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stand for Prayer, Part 4

Home from my trip, I'm still thinking about that book title, Armchair Mystic. What is it about our prayer lives as evangelicals that is missing? Could it be that we've turned into a bunch of "me" centered whining babies? Our prayers at best often amount a string of perfunctory "thank you" clauses and a very vague and general confession of sin (how often do we get into specifics like greed, pride, gossip, lust, or hate?). At worst our prayers are little more than a wish list (or for some, an attempt to invoke god-like powers to "claim" their blessing) of things we thing we need to be happy. Our prayers are a mile wide and an inch deep. Why is that?

Maybe we've missed the point of prayer. Prayer is about communion with God. We listen to God in his word, but we need to learn to "listen" to God in prayer, too. How do we do that? First we need to know God. Here I'm not talking about merely intellectual awareness or having in our minds a string of facts about God. I'm talking about contemplating who God is in prayer. This involves praying theologically informed prayers. Prayer should be the joining of heart and head in a mystical union that seeks to know God as you would know any person.

With that in mind I offer the following suggestions: (1) learn what God's attributes are; (2) learn what Scriptures support our belief in the divine attributes; and (3) pray through those attributes in contemplative prayer using Scripture to reinforce your awareness of God's greatness and his presence in your life. Let prayer become a practice of the presence of God. Now, to do this you're going to need to read a bit of theology. I would recommend something like Millard Erickson's Introducing Christian Doctrine, 2nd ed. It's concise, readable for the layman, and scripturally grounded. Learn to live life corem deo, in the face of God, and you will learn how to "pray without ceasing," for all of life will become some form of prayer--of the practice of the presence of God.

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