How I Pray {Part One}

How I Pray {Part One} August 10, 2022

Grayscale photo of persons hand

I’ve had a complicated relationship with prayer, increasingly resisting conceptions of prayer that put control in our hands. Recently I preached on a lectionary passage about prayer (Luke 11:1-13) that could be construed this way. It includes an interesting parable about a man who needs bread, so he pounds on the door of his friend until his friend finally gets up and provides it. The story obviously commends persistence. Then the writer of Luke combines the parable with Jesus’ teaching of “The Lord’s Prayer,” in which we ask “Give us each day our daily bread.” The juxtaposition of the story and the prayer seem to say: Don’t give up, even when your prayers don’t seem to be working; keep praying; keep hoping. Indeed, it suggests we should repeat our prayers over and over because eventually they will work and we will control God, and he’ll get the hell out of bed and come to the door and finally give us what we want (and moreover, if we don’t, God might keep ignoring us). To me, this is a disturbing view of God and of prayer that portrays God almost as an abusive partner wanting us to beg.

Fortunately, over time I’ve developed a very different understanding of prayer—hopefully a healthier way of thinking about “persistence” than what one might take from that passage.

As I’ve written in a past column, I have this notion I call “cosmic flow” that is a large part of my worldview. I quote myself:

“I love to image God as a force or flow moving things in the direction of repair and redemption—especially the things we creatures break. In noticing how repair and serendipity are evident in a certain occurrence, I might refer to the occurrence or process as ‘part of the cosmic flow.’ Sometimes the flow of redemption takes a while, and sometimes things get caught or are resistant to the flow; the flow can be temporarily impeded. But flow on to redemption it does, bringing with it all things, making ‘all things new, to use scriptural language.”

In my view, when we pray, we are joining our energy with this flow. Energy is powerful. In fact, energy cannot be eliminated, it keeps going and moving on. Even emotional energy is like this. When we feel strong emotions, we cannot ignore them. Because emotions are energy, and energy is a force that keeps going and that moves on but cannot be eliminated, we must feel our emotions, and/or move them out of our bodies through expression or exertion. If repressed or “stuffed,” the energy of emotions can stick around our bodies and make us sick.

So, energy is real, and it causes things to happen—good, bad, and indifferent. Prayer is a kind of energy. And I believe God, or the cosmic flow of redemption, is continuously using energy that moves things and heals things. I believe that cosmic flow uses the energies and intentions of human beings (and other creatures) in helping to bring about that healing and repair. As people join their energies through prayer, it not only joins with and strengthens the flow of God’s activity in the world, but it animates human actions. As more people join their energies with the flow, more are inclined to do the things that bring repair and movement. Imagine people are praying for the food insecure. As more people sincerely pray for those who are hungry, in the sense of joining their energies with the flow that is God, holding up the people who have need of food, that energy is more likely to animate people to go work at a food bank or to make needed donations to sources of food for the hungry—in other words, to share.

In this sense, prayer is not some kind of manipulation of God. The idea is not to harp on God until God finally capitulates and gives us what we want. Even less so, to have to beg an abusive sort of God because God wants us to grovel. Rather, the idea is that we join our intentions with the energy and intentions of the Divine, thus cooperating with this essential force of love and repair, strengthening it as we go. In our persistence, we are expressing the loving intentions and energy of our hearts, which accord with and support and strengthen the loving energy and intentions of God, or “the flow,” in the world.

This sort of “persisting in prayer,” I quite like. See How I Pray {Part Two} HERE.

Wren, winner of 2022 Independent Publishers Award Bronze Medal

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