Of late, in our local community at least, there has been quite the controversy brewing regarding the issue of prayer, specifically public prayer. For decades, it has been the tradition to have an invocation at Town Hall meetings and that invocation has been principally a protestant prayer, often closed “in Jesus name.” Of course as we have become a more pluralistic nation, other belief systems than Christianity have emerged on the religious landscape and now a battle is occurring over the protection of the voice of those religions.
As morality deteriorates in our country, giving way to greed and materialism, one wonders if the issue is not more about the disposal of Jesus than the protection of freedom? Even our public prayers seem more about driving some religious stake in the ground than bringing the presence of Christ into our decision making processes? The latter certainly is needed given the dilemma into which we now have gotten ourselves and our nation.
Maybe the “mess” in our nation has occurred because we have forgotten how to pray? A noticeable parallel is evident also in our understanding of vocation, as many have relinquished any sense of true calling and personal purpose; becoming a people who express life through our “jobs”, the means by which we acquire wealth, as opposed to the sacred calling by which we might add value to our community. We may have lost our sacred “voice”, both in the affect of our prayers and the vocational calling of our lives?
Praying has become less of the private personal practice of intimacy with God, and more of a corporate or public activity often programmed into our lives by the particular church we attend. For some of those churches and their congregants, prayer books are recommended; daily, traditional prayers or favored rhetoric, some centuries old. For others special times and seasons of prayer are hosted by the churches, in an attempt to cause people to pray, at least occasionally!
In vogue among the more devoted Christians of today is 24/7 prayer, as if the time we log in conversation with God might serve as a measure of our intimacy. This approach is more aligned with the old parenting debate of quantity versus quality time spent with children. These attempts by the now lost children of God, may be nothing more than mimicry of a strategy patterned after a now defunct group whose ancestors were in fact once truly moved to establish a vigil of prayer 24/7 lasting for 100 years! Their hearts were committed to the “Lamb that had Conquered”, having been delivered through centuries of persecution and flight. This generational movement of the Holy Spirit was initiated through the tragic loss of the life of one man, John Huss; willing to give his life for the very church that burned his body in order to shut down his convictions. There is a price for true prayer! Maybe we are being ushered toward a day as a nation when that price will be once again extracted and similar prayer released?
“Praying through” was a term used by the church as I was growing up. When life situations arose or decisions had to be made, one would exercise prayer, even corporate prayer, until able to discern specific approaches to problems or achieve breakthroughs to include financial miracles, physical healing, or even rain in the dust bowl days, often those prayers employed simultaneous fasting. Afterwards, I assume life would move along until the next crisis or need arose, creating a sort of sacred-secular divide in one’s prayer life, a start and stop approach to prayer. Maybe in the relief brought on by those prayers, and after life had returned to “normal”, the depression of the 30’s then history, we Americans accepted a lifestyle of secularism and the fruit of that deception has now brought us to the place of renewed struggle today? God is faithful in His refining fire!
The good news is that a fresh model of intimacy is being nurtured by the Spirit amidst the growing challenges of our day. Incubation of a vital desire seems present in the emerging generation, a welling up of effervescence akin to new wine. Though the institutional church is working hard to “contain it” to “bottle it” in some program, as if the Spirit needs our promotion to succeed, this heart cry for personal relationship with a spiritual being that actually dwells among us, may soon burst forth, our nation then restored or just possibly, Christ ushered into His full Kingdom reign?
Christ in us and among is the true “hope of glory”. His residency is a reality! When you open the door to your soul, you will find that He is at-home, active and engaged in your space, awaiting your caress! He is not a father behind a newspaper who occasionally speaks to you once you have entered that space, nor a mother preoccupied when her children arrive home. He is truly present, engaging, interceding. He is the Word, conversation is to be expected.
Life in Christ is in fact about conversation, an attitude of attentiveness; that is what “praying without ceasing” is all about. Prayer is not an action but an attitude (a navigational term implying alignment) of intimacy, full engagement with the personality of Christ, the one resident in you by the Holy Spirit. We are no longer alone, never requiring that we initiate a conversation with a God who is far off, but rather that we commune with an internal presence who is never apart from us, from the moment of our salvation till the end of our days!
Prayer is no longer an isolated invocation, demanding any certain posture or corporate activity, though often the richness of his presence may move us to an expression joy that leaves us prostrate or in bellyful songs of worship!
Our lives find full-fillment in Christ. Thus, wherever we go, the presence of Christ is manifest and the authority of Christ rules. We no longer have to invoke His presence, we are His presence. If we are in the room, Christ is there! Religion bows its knee to the believer and freedom is a given!