Balancing the Practice of Prayer

This morning I am troubled by the political nature of the church.  Its seems that she is content in isolation, most often quite removed from public life until some secular event occurs that hinders her perceived position and freedoms.  Whether it is abortion, stem cell research, or prayer at public meetings; she then explodes in a crisis mode with pickets and marches, as if this nation were a theocracy.  This kind of “how dare you” response then sends political shock waves because of the numbers of people, though now in weekly decline, that still attend church.

The current dilemma facing our own community, possibly a test case for our nation, is prayer in public chambers.  The challenge is not prayer, for who can stop that, but rather, praying publicly in the halls of our municipalities in the name of any one deity.  In the churches’ defense, and of serious interest to me is the obvious aversion that appears solely around the name of Jesus.  In fact, the “belief system” whose radical element first attacked our homeland often proclaims Allahu (Allah in Arabic) Akbar throughout their prayers without challenge.  That alone speaks volumes to me regarding the truth held in the Name of Christ, to whom my own life is surrendered! 

However, this morning as I read from II Chronicles 14:14 NIV, I saw what so many unbelievers may find offensive in the Canon of scriptures, the ravaging and warring that seems at times condoned by God because it is recorded in the chronicles of biblical history.  I question whether at times the church also uses this once condoned barbaric nature of its fallen race, to justify its own wars and political antics when attempting to take back lost freedoms?  Could the Canon when read apart from the reflection of God in Christ lead us to err?  I must confess that something of my childhood learning, obviously held deep within my psyche, seems troubled by the fact that I would even go where I just went.  To many, heresy would be implied?

Really, do we have a right to demand our way, as opposed to modeling the Christ who often went away to pray, and then demonstrated publically the love and power of God; as opposed to the religious leaders of the same day who prayed long prayers publically, demanding their rights of political rulers, then crucified the Christ when He crossed the laws of their Theocracy?

“Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one.  There God’s Spirit dwells” (Christ in Us) “and there the great encounter takes place.  There heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, within us.” “It is the mystery that the heart, which is the center of our being, is transformed by God into his own heart, a heart large enough to embrace the entire universe.  Through prayer we can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war, all hunger, loneliness and misery, not because of some great psychological or emotional capacity, but because God’s heart has become one with ours.” -Nouwen

“When you pray, enter your closet and shut the door…”- Jesus

Henri Nouwen, “The Way of the Heart”  (Ballantine Books, NY,1981). P.74, 86.

3 thoughts on “Balancing the Practice of Prayer

  1. You speak truth. Whenever public prayer becomes the issue we have forgotten THE ISSUE, and have crossed into using religious activity to justify human positions. Jesus says “don’t be like the hypocrites” ( those putting on a public form of Goliness while denying the power thereof), and besides, they already got their “prayer reward.” If that’s all the value prayer has become, a public tug of war, or worse, then we have lost the issue and God must remove His glory from such a house.

    There is no Canon apart from seeing scripture through Christ. If we attempt to do so, we are culpable of wielding the letter of the Law as a weapon, and by denying, quenching, and completely missing the Spirit thereof, we become agents of death and create children of Hell, rather than experiencing/knowing the Eternal Spiritual Life “He Is” and came to bring:

    “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood[a] it.”

    Logos is incomprehensible apart from Christ. There is no Logos apart from Christ. If this is so, then there is no Life apart from Him either. Any attempt use the Scriptures apart from its Source and Meaning is an arrogant act of futility, deadly, and one from which we must run for our erternal lives.

  2. My thoughts this week were along a similar line. Saddened to be sure. I have no issues on what you wrote. I offer only a short thought or two. When we pray- we are praying to God. Pretty simple. There were periods in church history where the monastic brothers found it ok to pray without a whole lot of contact with the outside world – mainly because they wanted to minister to God. We should be careful to pray to God and not use prayer as a tool of evangelism or even discipleship. I am humbled by my own lack to talk about prayer and even greater lack to pray in private. May God help me to pray because I have faith that He hears me even in private and in my car around the city. I am also grateful to have many brothers and sisters who are also trying to find their way on the complifications in our world.

  3. There is nothing that you have written that I would object to. However, knowing you, there is a part of you that I know to be true, that is not represented in this posting. That is that you are a praying person who prays to God as He has chosen to reveal Himself in the
    revelation of His Son Jesus Christ.

    You believe that this is God’s exclusive revelation because it has been defined as such by Jesus Himself.

    I don’t know, but strongly expect that you pray extensively about what happens in the public chambers and your personal participation in it as a representative of Jesus Christ and a witness to him. No amount of public prayer before a meeting can add to that nor from that. It seems to me that the insistence of prayer in the council or commissioner’s meeting is an attempt to declare this a ‘Christian’ nation or endeavor. The sad reality is that it is not true (maybe never was, but certainly is no longer). If we insist in perpetuation the charade, we lose credibility with those who are not of faith and demean them and their beliefs.

    I would rather engage them in the public square in honesty that there are folks who disagree. If we approach in truth, (God is the author of all truth, therefore He is at an advantage in any engagement that recognizes truth) then those who disagree might be more willing to listen to our perspective and experience of God.

    If we try to ‘label’ a public gathering as Christian, when it clearly is not, we run the danger of representing something as God’s to the world that has nothing to do with His kingdom.

    I wax poetic, but I would just say that mentioning your faith commitments reaffirms part of who you are that gives you both the right and responsibility to speak to others in the faith community. You do that well in the start of your book. Keep emphasizing it as you write, whether or not you do it here. You are speaking as a part of the family. Those who disagree with you will try to paint you as an outsider (I think you used the word ‘heresy’)–keep affirming that you stand inside the family. At least it may give them pause.

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