Getting Beyond Prayer as a Pee-Wee Soccer Game

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June 25, 2018

2 Chronicles 7:13-16

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.

CONSIDER THIS

As we began this series on prayer, it was tempting to do a Google search on “prayers in the Old Testament” and go from one to the next to the next with these daily entries. After all, there are hundreds of prayers in the Old Testament. It would have been a very tactical approach, and people love tactical approaches.

So why didn’t I take that direction? Thanks for asking. It’s because I am convinced our greatest challenge is not at the level of tactics. When it comes to prayer, conventional wisdom says if we can just get more people praying more prayers for more time we will win. I’ve seen enough of this to know that we can get more people praying more prayers for more time and the outcome turns out to be just more people praying more prayers for more time.

Friends, the problem is not at the level of tactical engagement (though we do have problems there). The greater challenge, as it relates to our personal and collective life of prayer, comes at the level of vision, mission and strategy. If we do not comprehend the vision, which is a visual articulation of the preferred future, we will not understand our mission, which is the clearly stated purpose for our existence. If we do not understand our mission, there is no way to think strategically about how to implement it. And in the absence of strategy we move from tactic to tactic to tactic, fighting over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary and who should have keys to the fellowship hall.

Admittedly, words like vision, mission, strategy and tactics are twentieth century business terms; however, they have ancient precursors. It’s why we spent so much time in Genesis 1 and 2 in this prayer series.

We needed to see the vision, which in biblical terms meant we need to first “hear” the vision from God’s very Word. If our prayers are not anchored in the very essence of Eden, they will at best attach themselves to some alternative (and usually seductive) vision of prosperity or at worst devolve into corporate liturgical mumblings.

If we do not understand our mission of walking with the Father in the power of the Spirit as the regents and viceroys of Jesus, stewarding his grace for all of Creation, our prayers will largely serve an agenda of self-protection and the advance of our own agendas and ambitions.

Without the mission of God we are destined to substitute all manner of strategic initiatives to accomplish our own individual and tribal missions to find life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, whatever we interpret those words to mean. Our strategies will be built on the premise of scarcity rather than abundance and our political ideologies will guide us far more than our theological convictions; often with the former masquerading as the latter.

To pray, in the way of Jesus, assumes we already see the vision, get the mission and understand the strategies. Imagine being dropped onto the playing field of a World Cup Soccer game and being told to “just play.” And did I mention that you don’t really understand soccer?  This is the equivalent of focusing on prayer at the tactical level. Sure, you can run around the field, wear yourself out, maybe even kick the ball, and feel like you’ve done something. But really?

We have mistakenly assumed that because we can read and God is powerful that we just kind of “get it.” The result is in our efforts to pray, much of the church looks like a peewee soccer game. You been to one of those lately? It amounts to about eighteen kids blobbed together futilely following a ball around a field and mostly kicking each other. While that cute spectacle must “touch” God’s heart to see, surely he grows impatient after a hundred years. It’s time to grow up Church. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just time.

Tomorrow we will re-convene somewhere near the modern day city of Cairo, Egypt, where we will explore prayer and divine deliverance from a vision, mission, strategy and tactical dimension. I am no expert, so prepare to tolerate my peewee level efforts. I promise I will try not to kick you. ;0)

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. You are our great teacher when it comes to prayer; and everything else. Thank you for tolerating my slowness to take this seriously. And thank you that taking it seriously really isn’t even the point. Thank you that you want me to wake up and show up and pray with you, as long as it takes. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Do you find the vision, mission, strategy, tactics framework at all helpful or instructive when it comes to understanding prayer? How?
  2. Where do you need the most help? The big vision informing prayer? Mission? Strategy? Tactics?
  3. How do you relate to this peewee soccer game image as relates to the Kingdom calling to enter into a life of prayer? How does it motivate you?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Sigh! Here is what I wrote just before I opened today’s Daily Text:

    I am giving the United Methodist Church and the local church every opportunity. But reality is I cannot stay with a progressive leaning church—either as a denomination or locally—and locally includes the conference. Like other laity across the denomination I am waiting to see what happens at GC2019 so I will know what I need to do. My criterion for staying is a sense that the denomination—including this conference—is at least moving to reclaim who it historically is. I have no delusions that there are any easy or quick fixes.
    All my life the church came across as something solid/reliable/trustworthy—it is proving to be anything but those things. Whatever roots I had with the local church were disengaged with the “do this and they will come era” and there has been nothing about the local church since—besides some long time friendships—that calls to me. Instead of helping me gain a clear understanding about who God is and who I am, all the church could do was tell me I needed to embrace a new and improved way of “doing church”—something I already knew how to do very well. The great irony is, I discovered that what I needed and wanted was exactly what John Wesley provided that brought Methodism into existence in the first place. I am in the right church, but in the wrong century. A century is about how long ago this current train wreck was put into motion. A century is also how long the church has been a battle ground for competing/conflicting/contradictory theologies. How much longer is the church supposed to “discuss this”?

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