Prayer: Small, Real Needs or High, Lofty Dreams?
For many years I’ve admired the prayers in the Bible—especially the ones Paul prayed. He prayed that people’s love would “abound more and more.” Now who doesn’t need that?
But I also thought they were so holy that I’d never actually pray them. Prayer is supposed to be “intelligent conversation about matters of mutual concern,” (Yes, Dallas Willard) and these prayers voice concerns that are deeper and richer than mine. They prayed for God’s will (that justice and love prevail) while I prayed that I’d make ends meet until the next paycheck and get the recognition I deserved!
Where is the meeting place between the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16) and the mind of me? Do we pray down and dirty or high and lofty?
I’ve learned that the more we connect with God in ordinary, everyday life, the more God’s concerns slowly become ours. Prayer becomes a time of sitting with Jesus on a park bench to discuss our in-the-moment, immediate needs with God’s enormously abundant life. Sometimes we blurt out our raw needs and then examine them in prayer in the light of all the nurture God provides. Other times we ponder and paraphrase lofty prayers (I’m including one below) and see that they contain nuggets of what our soul most desires—only we never saw it before. As we pray these prayers, we find that they form in us a God-drenched view of the world God so loves, pulling us out of our me-myself-and-I existence. By praying Scripture, in fact, we develop the mind of Christ. May that be your experience. (Excerpted from Spiritual Disciplines Companion and will appear in the new release of Prayer and Listening.)
Here is my favorite prayer in Scripture. It’s fun to learn it by heart and pray it for yourself and for others. I’ve changed the wording so that it’s not ABOUT what I’m praying but I’m actually praying it for my terrific sister, Connie Kappes.
Ephesians 3:16-20 I pray that out of your glorious riches, God, you may strengthen Connie with power through your Spirit in her inner being, so that Christ may dwell in her heart through faith.
And I pray that Connie, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that she may be filled to the measure of all your fullness.
Now to you, who are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to your great power that is at work within us, to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Grace and peace,