Chapter 3 - The Discipline of Prayer
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. (Foster, pg. 33)
Boy, ain't it the truth. Many times in my life, I've decided not to ask for improvements in my prayer life for that exact reason: I don't want to ride the tiger that will chase me back to God.
But Foster's quoting of Martin Luther - I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer - struck a chord with me. And his statement that "For these explorers in the frontiers of faith, prayer was no little habit tacked onto the periphery of their lives; it was their lives," has much to recommend it for my own life.
But he also points out that if we're reading this book, we're probably not anywhere near these Goliaths of spirituality. This is where the image of Max Lucado has been very helpful: Max says that some pray-ers are Concorde jets, and some are Cessnas - but they both are in the air, drawing closer to the Light. Most days, I'm a Cessna, I think - and missing on one cylinder, to boot. But most days I'm also gaining altitude, rather than headed for the ground!
From my good friend Joe Crowther's study on prayer, I'm reminded of Martin Marty's image of prayer: We speak; God listens. God speaks; we listen...in an endless cycle. For me, it doesn't matter who initiates the cycle (although I'm more likely to hear God if I speak to God...). It is all about talking to a friend, as my buddies in recovery would tell me.
And I'm ever so grateful to Pastor John Frey pointing me to Psalm 13 - a prayer of lament. Compare the words of a recovering alcoholic who is struggling with unfair treatment at work and Psalm 13. First my brother alkie...
WTF, God? How long is this gonna go ON? I keep trying to do my best, and these yo-yo's keep SCREWING me, for no very good reason. It just sucks, God, and I'm tired. You've got to give me strength to go through this, or I won't make it. I know you can - just please help me, now. Amen.
Then Psalm 13:
1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
4 my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.
You'll likely never hear the first one in church - which is too bad; the honesty could do church-goers some good. But (as I pointed out to my friend) both are perfectly acceptable lament psalms!
The one big warning Foster gives in his study guide is toward this idea that "the universe is fixed - all I can do is show up. Nothing - and certainly not prayer - is going to change anything." I am continually reminded of Nicky Gumbel's words when talking about healing prayer: When we prayed for no one, no one was healed. When we prayed for everyone, some were healed and some were not. So in which direction do you think we ought to go?
Happy reading - I'll look forward to hearing your comments. Keep us "post-ed"!