My adviser in seminary taught me to be a biblical theologian. I have blogged about this at a prior time, but I would say here, to suffice, that being a biblical theologian means allowing Scripture to speak for itself and shape what I believe, even if that means going against what I had been taught and read repeatedly for many years. When this type of event occurs for me, I characterize it as an explosion.
Well, did you hear an explosion yesterday? I certainly did. Yesterday, I saw a vast majority of what I have been taught about and on prayer destroyed in an incredibly loud explosion.
This explosion was a result of my reading a short (96 pages) book titled, “Crafted Prayer,” by Graham Cooke. (You can buy it as an e-book for $5 at http://www.brilliantbookhouse.com)
Immediately after his introduction, Graham starts with Jesus’ words from Matthew 21:22: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Graham then asks this question: “Why, then, do we seemingly receive so few answers to prayer today? Was Jesus lying?”
When I read how Graham answered his own question, I knew that a lighter was being held to the detonating cord that was connected to the explosives sitting underneath what I had been taught about prayer. Graham answered it this way:
“Prayer, as it is taught today in most churches, doesn’t work. Most of us have been brought up in a tradition that when something bad happens, prayer must begin immediately. This seems reasonable and even righteous, but on a deeper level, it actually hinders the power of God to work on our behalf. In my experiences in churches and friendships, when we pray too soon, we usually pray in unbelief. We find ourselves praying out of the shock or trauma of the situation itself, and we pray out of our panic, our worry, our anxiety and our concern.”
Graham goes on to say that when this occurs, the approach is a shotgun approach. We throw up all manner of prayer, different ways that God might want to respond. We even add the phrase, “IF it be your will,” in order to cover any possibility we may have missed. I wonder if, when God hears all these types of possible responses, He thinks to Himself, “What is this, multiple choice?”
When this praying occurs, it has now ceased being about the person or situation about whom is being prayed, and become, in reality, about our search to find God. “We have forgotten to pray what God wants to do and begun our own search for Him.”
Throughout the rest of the booklet, Graham unfolds a process of prayer. He speaks of how we are to enter the presence of God with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4). He speaks of what it means to “be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) He speaks of the rest that is involved. As we are still and resting, we are listening, listening to what our Lord is praying as He intercedes for us as He stands at the right hand of God. (Romans 8:34). We are also listening to the Holy Spirit who is also praying for us as we do not know what to pray. (Romans 8:26) What Jesus is praying and what the Spirit is praying matches and what they pray to have happen will happen.
So, we listen to what they are praying and we join them in praying what they are praying. We do this by listening intently which can only happen when we are still and at rest. And, when we pray what they are praying, we KNOW that what is being prayed will happen. We don’t pray FOR the answer; we prayer WITH the answer!
This teaching is direct conflict with some of my responsibilities as a pastor, namely the pastoral prayer portion of our worship gathering. I am given requests of which, oft-times, I am unaware and expected to pray for them on the spot. Yet, since I am unaware of how Jesus and the Spirit are praying regarding these things, the prayer becomes a search for God regarding these things, rather than being still and resting and listening intently, all of which takes time. No wonder rarely does what I say in these prayers come to fruition. I’m trying to hit the target, but am, in reality, spraying arrows all over the place.
The explosion may have happened quickly, but the reconstruction process will take some time. I want it to be time well spent which results in a level of intimacy between me and the Spirit which I never dreamed possible.
Looking forward to the results.