The True Way of Prayer Is Claim It and Name It

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May 17, 2018

Genesis 1:9-10

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

CONSIDER THIS

Yesterday, we witnessed the God who prays and works through word and deed. I started to say word and action and stopped myself. God’s Word is action. Scripture tells us it is “living and active.” (see Hebrews 4:12). We are so casual with our words, failing to realize the sheer power they carry.

Friendly Reminder: We are created in the image of a God, “[who] speaks and listening to his voice new life the dead receive!” (Chuck Wesley says, “Your Welcome” for that gem) To pray means to speak “after God,” or in the way God speaks.

Maybe this is the most fundamental insight of all: God prays. Who does God pray to? Himself. We have no trouble grasping the notion of Jesus praying, yet it seems a bit odd to think of God as praying. But what if we’ve got the whole concept of “praying” wrong? We think of prayer primarily as something we do. What if prayer is primarily something God does? What if, in fact, true prayer is a participation in the dialogue of the Heavens; joining into the creative conversation of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

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 today’s text—note how God speaks prescriptively: “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” Note their effect, “And it was so.” Now note how God follows this by speaking descriptively: “God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” 

God’s sacred speech, also known as prayer, first creates atmosphere; breathing space. Next, God creates habitat; or living space. In this way, prayer brings forth a new kind of order which is itself bursting forth with a generative creativity. To pray is to speak prescriptively into the formless, empty chaos, and then to speak descriptively as new creation begins to emerge.

Rather than the counterfeit way of “name it and claim it,” prayer, or speaking after God, is just the opposite: Claim it and name it. Permit me to ponder this at a high level of analogy. Prayer begins by claiming the formless, empty, dark depths—from which we typically want to run. The prayer, “Let there be light,” reveals the shape and illumines the nature of the chaos we face. Prayer proceeds to create atmosphere and then habitat—environmental conditions from which many other new things can spring forth.

The movement of prayer is from prescribing to describing; from claiming to naming. There is yet another movement of prayer from today’s text. It may be the most important one so far.

And God saw that it was good. 

Let’s call it surveying and celebrating.

Whose ready to go claim some chaos out there today?

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Thank you for not fleeing the chaos, but running straight into the middle of it. Bring me inside of your prayer life. Show me the ways you want to claim the chaos around me and within me, and walk me through what it looks like to speak into it and act upon it. Though I’m out of my depths, I know this is the shallow end for you. Right here, Jesus. Right now Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. How does the idea of prayer being something God does and we participate in impact your understanding and approach to prayer?
  2. How do you see ways that prayer can create atmosphere (breathing space) and habitat (living space) for the creative, generative work of God?
  3. How are you claiming the chaos around you? within you? What is the Holy Spirit leading you to prescribe through prayer into that chaos? How do you describe ways God has brought creative order in the past? How are you surveying and celebrating progress?

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

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