Prayer As An Uprising
To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. - Karl Barth
Even though most of us probably figured out a long time ago that it doesn't work that way, we secretly try it anyway---long past the moments we realized it.
I recently stopped myself in the midst of pleading with God to grant me a wish, and muttered out loud: "Who am I kidding? You're not really listening anyway, are you?"Then, I sort of shyly cast my gaze up to the stars and said, "Sorry."
I know, right? I'm the guy who has written many of these devotionals about prayer and how it works, and what happens when we do, and there I was doing the thing that I said not to do... treat God like a slot machine.
I was reading an essay by Peter Counter from the collection Empty The Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church, and a line that he wrote about prayer got me thinking:
Like using a banana for a phone or trying to manage your finances, prayer helps you express your desires to the void. At best, the act of speaking to God allows you to identify your problems so that they can be better addressed or allows the devotee to better appreciate the good things in life through reflection.
Counter had decided that God wasn't for him any longer, and saw no real personal connection with offering a prayer to the Divine. He also wrote that more often than not when Christians pray it fools them into thinking that inaction is action.
I disagree with both of those notions in principle, but I get why he believes them to be true.
All you have to do is listen to the countless politicians offer up their "thoughts and prayers" to the victims of school shootings without actually doing anything to stop them, and you get his drift.
But I do agree with him on this point: Prayer helps you figure things out. In fact, that's what prayer does best when it's entered into with an open heart and a mind bent on actually hearing from God.
When we pray about the things that we are wishing for, what is really going on is that there are deeper longings at work in our souls---longings for peace, mercy, grace, forgiveness, purpose, meaning, or comfort.
We might be praying that God would restore a relationship with a friend, but what might be going on at a deeper level is a longing to be the kind of person that is able to forgive... or be forgiven.
Or we might be praying for healing in the face of a frightening illness, but at a deeper level is a longing to fulfill our purpose in life (or even to find it) before our time on earth is done.
Your prayers are powerful moments of connection to the Spirit of God, and a way to listen intently to what God might be sharing with you at the place of our deepest longings, fears, and passions.
So pray with caution, my friends. You never know what might happen. Your prayers could be a catalyst for transformation that could turn the world upside down.
May it be so and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.