June 8, 2018
The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Let’s take stock of where we are in this series on prayer. We are walking together for forty days in the Old Testament and then for another 40 days in the New Testament. This week we crossed day 20, the half way point of the half way point. As I read back through the entries, here are some of the thoughts that stand out for me.
This is perhaps the first and most important teaching on prayer. We aren’t sending our prayers “up there somewhere.” We are speaking directly and immediately to the Risen Son of God. Though unseen to the naked eye, he is right here, right now. Jesus is not with us in the sense that someone who can’t come to our birthday party says they will be with us “in spirit.” Jesus is not with us “in spirit,” but in person–in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer means many things to many people. Biblically speaking, prayer means war. Prayer means advance. Prayer means recovering what has been lost and taking back what has been stolen.
From On The Necessity of Becoming a Beginner Again (unpublished)
The Christian vision of prayer is not empty-handed scarcity but overflowing fruit-full-ness. James says we have not because we ask not for we ask with wrong motives. This is why the Word of God is so central to prayer. Jesus is not a wish genie but a prayer trainer.
The biblical foundation for prayer begins neither with preexistent nothingness nor with broken everything. Our whole understanding and practice of prayer must begin with the beginning—Genesis 1:1. It means prayer begins with faith. Now, by faith I don’t mean to say the activity of human belief, but the reality of Divine action. Faith is the willful decision of a community of people to live the totality of their existence in the light of God and in the world of God’s making.
Prayer, or speaking like God speaks, begins with incorporating these three words into our praying vocabulary: “Let there be . . .”
The world around us desperately needs people with the audacity to speak like God speaks; to speak words in the power of the Spirit into the formless, empty, dark and deep situations. The world needs the followers of Jesus to become schooled and skilled with the creative speech of prayer.
Sometimes God moves mountains in an unmistakably sovereign way. More often, he moves us, by the strength of his Spirit, to move all the old furniture out of the chaotic storage room. Sometimes a word will get it done. Other times to that word we must add rolling up our sleeves. It’s all God, though. And all good.
There’s a difference between saying prayers and praying. Saying prayers can train us for praying, but praying requires more than this. It requires the long slow cultivation of a memory steeped in Scripture, an attentiveness anchored in the embodied human-ness of Jesus (which is our humanity), and an imagination fired by the Holy Spirit and imbued with all the possibilities of the Kingdom of Heaven.
To tell another person, “I’ll be praying for you,” is a serious thing. It is not sitting passively and sympathetically on the outside, speaking words to God on their behalf. Rather, it means something more like, “I will stand with Jesus for you in the midst of the chaos.” Real praying is not human inspired sympathy but Spirit empowered empathy.
To be sure, we live as fallen creatures in the midst of a fallen creation. We, however, are called to arise into the post-resurrection reality of our Ascended Lord, where the New Creation of the Kingdom of Heaven bursts at the seams to break in upon the broken order and renew the flourishing of all abundance.
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.
Are we Genesis 1-2 people flourishing in abundance or are we Genesis 3- scarcity people? The resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit doesn’t all at once abolish the reality of Genesis 3; however, it opens a new and living way of prayer anchored far more in the possibilities of Eden and the New Creation than in the problems of exile.
To “call on the name of the Lord,” is a step in the right direction, but it does not yet even approximate what it means to “walk with God.” Said another way, to “call on the name of the Lord,” is the beginning of a “prayer life,” but to “walk with God” is of another order—it means a “life of prayer.”
Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. You are the only one who can teach us to pray. And so we ask you, teach us to pray as you pray. In fact, draw us into a participation in your very prayer life. Then we will know. Then we will rise up into a whole new world. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.
- What stands out in your remembrance and learning from the series so far?
- How do you find yourself most challenged?
- On what points do you find your thinking and practice most confirmed and encouraged?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.