May 22, 2018
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
O.K., I think we need to huddle a bit based on some of the feedback I’m getting on this Daily Text series on prayer so far. First, a lot of you report being challenged deeply to think about prayer in heretofore unexplored ways. Others of you report blown mental circuitry with appreciation. A few have said they are ready to quit because it doesn’t make sense. I want you to know I appreciate and validate all of that. Please know I am only trying to go where the text leads me.
It’s fair also at this point to recognize I am not speaking of prayer in the usual fashion. We are crafting a theology of prayer by beginning at the beginning. We are not so much asking the Holy Spirit to teach us something new or novel about prayer as much as we are asking him to reveal to us what has been there all along, yet perhaps unnoticed. Admittedly, we are not yet dealing with prayer in a functional or technical sense. Rather, we are dealing with it at the level of its deepest essence and nature.
When it comes to prayer, most of us don’t need to try harder. What we need is a deeper understanding. We don’t need a change in method as much as we need a change in mindset. That is where I am coming from. If you are struggling, I urge you to lean in and bear with me a bit longer. We will drink the water soon enough. For now it is important that we dig the well deeper.
My first fundamental shift comes with what prayer even is. Up to this point I would have considered prayer as words we say to God. I now understand prayer as Divine speech. In the same way Jesus prays in John 11, ”
And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” John 11:41-43.
God prays in Genesis 1, “Let there be light.”
We are told in Paul’s letter to the Romans about the Holy Spirit praying. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26.
Before prayer is ever human speech, it is Divine Speech.
Bringing it to today’s text; to be created in the image and likeness of God must have something to do with some manner of speaking like God speaks. After all, we get twenty-five verses of God speaking Creation out of chaos after which we are told we are created in the image of this God. In fact, he created us so we might rule the Creation. It would stand to reason that God would intend the Creation to be ruled in the same way it was created, by the will and word of God.
In all of Creation, it appears only men and women have the capacity to speak like God speaks. Let’s remember our season with Ezekiel as he was instructed to speak to the bones and to the breath. God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy, which is a manner of praying, which means to speak like God speaks.
What if our most powerful and creative capacity as image bearers of God is to speak like God speaks—to pray? Could this be what it means to rule like God rules—to walk with God in the ways of God, by the will of God, and in accordance with the Word of God? I am becoming convinced that this is what prayer means.
This creation mandate in Genesis 1 for the image-bearers of God to rule over Creation effectively makes us viceroys—a ruler exercising authority on behalf of a sovereign. If I’m honest, my praying comes more from a place of victimization than viceroy. I live too much as a victim of sin, darkness and death, and what I call prayer is too often the amplification of my anxieties to God. Surely, prayer must mean more than this.
For years now I have been mesmerized by something the late Henri Nouwen wrote concerning prayer. Let’s give him the last word today.
“The word ‘prayer’ stands for a radical interruption of the vicious chain of interlocking dependencies leading to violence and war and for an entering into a totally new dwelling place. It points to a new way of speaking, a new way of breathing, a new way of being together, a new way of knowing, yes, a whole new way of living. . . Prayer is the center of the Christian life. It is the only necessary thing. (see Luke 10:42)” (Henri Nouwen, Prayer and Peacemaking)
Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Teach us to pray. I am far more at home in learning about what I think I already know. I need to come clean and confess I know very little of this divine mystery. I want to be teachable. I am ready to be stretched. I look to you. Right here, Jesus. Right now Jesus. Amen.
- Are you finding yourself frustrated with this series on prayer so far? Can you stay with the struggle a bit longer? What would help you?
- How do you feel stuck in your present understanding and practice of prayer? Do you sense yourself getting unstuck? How?
- What do you make of this distinction between a victim and a viceroy when it comes to prayer? Where do you see yourself?
Join the Daily Text Fasting Challenge here. Whenever you sign up, it will begin the following Tuesday.
J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.