The Prayer (New) Heart: Prayer’s Biggest Question

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 8.39.44 AMPrayer changes in the new covenant because the Spirit of supplication is granted those in Christ. Once in Christ and in the Spirit, our heart is renewed to prayer. Thus, John Frye, Liberate Your Praying Heart.

The Bible’s story moves from God forming us into a wedding/marital relationship with God (think Hosea) toward a new covenant in which the will of God is inscribed onto the heart of every child of God.

The inner lives of God’s people have been altered; divine surgery has been performed; and revitalized hearts now beat in place of the old, stony ones. The Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who activates the new covenant in our experience is called in Zechariah 12:10 the Spirit of supplication, the Spirit of prayer (Zechariah 12:10). The word “supplication,” or prayer, in the Hebrew literally means “seeking for grace.”8 Just as the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, of life, and of holiness, so the friendly third Person of the holy Trinity is the Spirit of prayer! A grace-seeking Spirit has been given to you; this Spirit now lives forever in you. 18-19

That new heart is a praying heart: Abba Father (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15). From David:

We catch a glimpse of this degree of love and attachment to God in the words of King David: “My heart says of you ‘Seek his face!’Your face, Lord, I will seek” (Psalm 27:8). … . You have heard, perhaps, of a heat-seeking missile. We’ve been given a God’s-face-seeking heart! What is unknown to the Spirit? Nothing! The Spirit can direct us in the most casual of settings to help people make eternal discoveries. 20

At this point we pause: we affirm here with John regeneration, regeneration by the Spirit, regeneration in Christ, and we affirm that in regeneration we receive the Spirit that makes us sons and daughters who now have a yearning for the face of the Father. Thus, a theology of new birth is a theology of adoption and a theology of adoption is a theology that liberates the praying heart to enter into the priestly work of Christ in prayer. Which leads to this:

When it comes to prayer, God is first. God is primary and preeminent. As such, he speaks first. Prayer is and always will be answering speech. Eugene H. Peterson writes, “[Pjrayer is never the first word, it is always the second word. God has the first word. Prayer is answering speech; it is not primarily address’ but response.” 24

John discusses perichoresis and prayer, one of the most dynamic ideas I know about prayer. It begins with God:

What comes to your mind when you think “God”? Train yourself to think beyond God the Father, to incorporate Trinity as intrinsic to your conception of God. Most of us as Christians do think of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is good, but it is just a start. Prayer is most effectively engaged when we understand (as much as is humanly possible) how Father, Son, and Spirit relate to one another. An ancient word that is finding new traction among many Christians in the Protestant stream is perichoresis. The word has been appreciated for centuries in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. 29

Perichoresis describes a dynamic, loving, joyful, unified vision of the interrelationships among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the amazing mutuality and glorious harmony within the godhead. The Trinity does not operate on the “top down” model of a command-and-control relationship, where God the Father is the “boss” and the Son and Spirit exist only to do his bidding. Perichoresis seeks to explain how the “one God in three Persons” operates mutually in creating, sustaining, loving, and redeeming the entire cosmos. The concepts of “circle dance” and “making room for another” function as metaphors or picture words. 30

So, what we think of God — angry God, distant God, authoritarian God, et al — determines prayer life, and if we think in terms of Trinity and perichoresis new light is shed on prayer life.

The eternal perichoretic conversation among Father, Son, and Spirit does indeed invite us to enter an eternal, breath-taking dimension of reality that can be realized only through faith that is expressed in the simple practice of prayer. 35

Here then is prayer’s biggest question:

What if prayer is not about talking up to God-authorities— Father, Son, and Spirit—but about being drawn into a vibrant, joyful, and reciprocal dialogue with them? In this radically new and exciting paradigm of the nature of prayer, the eternal, pulsating, joyful dynamics of the holy Trinity propel us into intimacy, during which we mostly listen. When we do speak our words are weighted with eternity. That is indeed the very life and longing of your praying heart. 36

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