Some preachers and pastors have the knack of making people feel guilty about their prayer life and others have more than a knack. Others, like Eugene Peterson and John Frye, blow fresh breezes of more biblical and sound reasoning. Today I want to begin a set of posts on John Frye’s Liberate Your Praying Heart. There is no book on prayer like this — that I have seen. I recommend it.
Here is his opening and it’s the theme:
You are a praying person. Does that startle you? Consider it again: you, and I do mean you, are a praying person. You don’t need to learn to pray. You need to be liberated to pray. Within the package containing the big, bountiful, free gift called salvation was included a praying heart. Most Christians are unaware of this tremendous gift. That you already have a praying heart is an epic idea. I want to explore this fascinating reality with you. Why? So that you will find prayer to be as vital a part of your life as breathing. 1
I agree and he will show in Liberate Your Praying Heart that praying is what we do because we “in Christ the Prayer.”
To embrace the fact that you are a praying person does not mean that you already pray well or enough. But the crux of the issue is this: you have a praying heart. You are, already, a praying person. The challenge lies in catching up to what God has already made you to be. 2
Here is a golden image:
Michelangelo, the great Italian artist and sculptor, wrote, “In every block of marble is an angel. The task of the sculptor is to set it free.” In the inner being of every child of God is a vibrant, praying heart. Your task is to liberate it. 3
He discusses (1) that all prayer begins with our view of God, and he’s convinced our view of God as an angry why-don’t-you-pray-more? God distorts everything about prayer. The (2) struggle is this:
Your struggles with prayer are not unique. Thousands of Christians believe that they do not pray enough or in a manner that will move God to respond. This is not because they devalue prayer; they know it to be a dynamic and crucial reality in the Christian life. The core problem is that so many have bought into the error that prayer begins and ends with them. 4We have been poisoned into believing a deep, spontaneity-destroying He: the prayer ball is always in our court. Were just not up to the challenge. 6
This whole approach is wrong. It is my intention to establish that the impetus for and effectiveness of prayer are first and always in God’s court. 6
Exactly! We are not the source of prayer. God is, and it is this that I think is one of the secrets to Liberate Your Praying Heart:
There was something in Jesus’ prayer life that caused all that the disciples knew about prayer to seem distressingly inadequate. Jesus held the golden chalice of prayer; in comparison, their repetitive, routine prayers must have seemed like offerings held up in Styrofoam cups. As persistent as their ritualistic prayer schedule was, they seemed to know nothing about the authentic nature of prayer. Thus their request. 8
I put John Frye’s idea like this: Jesus is the priest who prays; we are “in Christ”; therefore, in Christ we participate in Christ’s priestly prayer life. The perichoresis of Father, Son, and Spirit is what we enter into “in Christ” and thus we enter into the Father-Son-Spirit yearnings, cares, and desires for the world and for us. In prayer we are to enter into God’s own life.
Talk about a prayer team! You have Jesus and the Holy Spirit in your court, both actively praying for you. The point is this: your praying heart longs for you to join with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in this continuous conversation with the Father. You are invited to join in the most life- and world-changing, ongoing dialogue in the world. 9