Thanks for sending the questions. As long as they keep coming, I’ll keep responding. (Hint, I’m down to my last one that was submitted this week.)
Stevie wrote two days ago asking me to comment about the power of prayer. So with her request, I’ll jump in and share a few of my thoughts – in hopes it will motivate some of you to jump in and share your thoughts as well.
In order to get at Stevie’s answer about the power of prayer, I’ll begin by talking briefly about the evolution that has occurred in my concept of prayer. Once I do that, I’ll share how I understand the power of prayer today.
Like some, I struggled for years with the model of prayer with which I was presented as a child. As a child, the only form of prayer I was taught was intercessory prayer: the kind of prayer where you spend most of your time either asking for things or giving thanks for things. On a few rare occasions, I would also vent my frustrations; but I always felt a little guilty about doing that.
Intercessory prayer (at least the way it was taught to me) was based largely on the notion of a distant or transcendent God: a God who was “out there”.
As my theology developed over time, however, I struggled with that model of prayer. I grew to see God not primarily as distant or transcendent (“out there”) but imminent (“right here”). As that shift occurred, for a while I become unsure of how to pray.
So how did this theological shift inform my prayer life?
In a couple of ways. In the early days of the shift, I noticed the tone of my intercessory prayer time changed. The tone of my conversation became less informational (i.e. “God, here’s what’s happening”) and more conversational. I focused less on outcomes and more on my feelings and responses to what was happening. As more time passed, I found myself spending less time in intercessory prayer and more time in meditation and centering prayer. The primary purpose of these spiritual disciplines is to increase my awareness of God’s presence.
With all of this said, my understanding of what is meant by “the power of prayer” has shifted over the years. When I practiced a basic form of intercessory prayer, I defined the power of prayer to mean “Did I get what I want?” If a loved one was healed from cancer, for instance, I could assert prayer worked! If a loved one wasn’t healed from cancer, then I would question the power of prayer – or repeat to myself a saying that someone else had taught me (i.e. “Sometimes the answer to prayer is not yet, or no!” or “God’s ways are beyond our understanding”). It was hard for me to feel very good about those responses, however.
Today, my view of prayer is that the time I spend cultivating in myself an awareness of God’s presence isn’t meant to change God; it’s primarily meant to change me. When a loved one has cancer, for instance, I spend my prayer time holding that person in loving thoughts and focusing my energies on being as present to God, myself, and the other person as possible so that my ways of being can bring expressions of peace and wholeness to the situation.
So what do you think? (Oh, and keep the questions coming!)