Our vision is to become like Christ, to be “The Beloved” we already are in Christ.
Our highest value in pursuing this vision is to follow Jesus in relational intimacy.
We do this by engaging in daily practices that are “means of grace” in our spiritual (trans)formation toward Christlikeness. These spiritual exercises should not be a burden, rather a joyful means of spending focused time with the Lover of our soul.
We all need mutual support and accountability in two’s/three’s friendships to help us in this life journey: Do you meet regularly to ask the 5 questions of the circled-triangle?
To live our highest value of following Jesus in relational intimacy we practice…
The Word: we imbibe/meditate on God’s Self-revelation – the Way, The Truth, The Life.
Worship: our response to this God is surrender in acts of adoration and a life of service.
Prayer: this naturally leads to growing relationship with God – the practice of prayer.
Holy Spirit Ministry: resulting in the practice of the leadership and ministry of the Spirit.
We ask why pray? What is prayer as a daily practice for spiritual formation? Next week we look at the how of prayer: how do we actually pray… daily?
Why Prayer? What is Prayer?
Simply stated: prayer is relationship with God. In essence, prayer is communication with God – not to God, but with God – it’s dialogue, not monologue! (Mother Teresa defined prayer as listening to God in the silence of your heart, and answering). Prayer as interactive relationship has two essential dimensions (see below), but first….
In origin, prayer is the native breath of the soul. God created human beings in the Garden as his image bearers, giving them the kiss of life. They lived by his inbreathed Spirit. Their returned breath was their instinctive prayer-response to God, to imbibe more of his life and love to be his image to all creation. But, breaking from God, to be independent of God, they died spiritually, entering a living death of mortality and corruption. Cut off from the Breath of Heaven, they lived by the foul O2 of fallen earth.
But God, in his mercy, reversed this in Messiah Jesus. He lived by Heaven’s Breath and breathed into us his Resurrection Spirit (John 22:21-22). We are “born again” from above (John 3:3-8) by his kiss of life and we instinctively cry our first prayer, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15-16). Christian prayer is experiencing eternal life: inbreathing God’s Spirit to live heaven’s life on earth, re-oxygenating fallen creation, bringing into being God’s new creation. Therefore, Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Let your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10).
In practice, prayer is answering God in interactive relationship. God first breathes into us, then we breathe. God first loves, then we love. God first reveals, and we respond. God first speaks his Word, and we answer. It’s all prayer. Hebrew prayer is answering God. YHWH gave Israel his Word in the 5 books of Moses (Torah), then gave Israel the 5 books of David (The Psalter) as prayers to answer God. His Word to us, and our words (prayers) to him, are given by God, inspired by his Spirit. The Psalms have been THE prayer book of Israel – and of Christians – since 1000 BC! It still is! Prayer is praying the psalms, praying words of scripture. It teaches us the why and how of prayer, which in practice is developing relationship with God.
A Prayer-View of Life (Prayer as relationship with God)
To practice prayer is to develop interactive relational intimacy with God, having two essential dimensions: companionship (symbiosis) and co-working (synergy).
God seeks relationship, friendship, companionship (Gen 3:8f, “… where are you?”). God wants to “home” in us (Is 66:1-2 cf. John 14:23). This is relationship for love sake, for intimacy, to get to know and be known. It’s spending time together, just being, disclosing thoughts and feelings at the deepest level, as David did in his prayer-psalms. This prayer of com-union (union with) transforms you – you become God’s garden of delight.
It naturally flows into co-working with God. People in relationship talk about things and then go do them; that’s how things are accomplished. The Father and Son not only live in us by the Spirit, sharing their life and love with us (prayer-symbiosis), but we’re caught up into the Trinitarian life and dialogue to participate in their conversation (prayer-synergy), not only influencing what God thinks and does, but actually changing created reality as per God’s will (Rom 8:26-27, 34). This is the mysterious power of prayer, called intercession, or co-working with God in his Kingdom. It empowers you to exercise your realm of faith and freedom in God to achieve his purpose (see the diagram below).
Like a child growing up in a loving relationship with their parents, they exercise ever-greater freedom of choice to make things happen. Between the two poles of things that will not change and things that will change, whether we pray or not, is a growing space of increasing authority and responsibility to change things with God. One’s view of God affects prayer: misconceptions such as shouting, many words, right words, reluctant God, fatalist God, etc. Our requests, desires and decisions really count; they do change things (John 14:13-14, 15:7, Mk 11:24). If we do not pray, good things that could happen will not happen, and bad things that should not happen will happen (Ex 32:7-14).
So, practice prayer! Learn to live in the rhythmic tension of these two dimensions of prayer, they work together reciprocally, motivating and feeding each other.