Last week we began this series by suggesting that prayer is, first and foremost, an invitation into a relationship - specifically a love relationship with God. (www.covenantchurch.ca/blog/reflections-on-prayer-an-invitation-into-relationship)
If prayer is an invitation a into love relationship, it is also true that it involves persons. (I don't say "people" because God and us are so radically different. My concern in using that collective term "people" implies that we are the same. But it is important that we recognize both ourselves and God as persons in prayer.)
Before we get too far into talking about prayer, it is essential that we understand some things about the persons in that relationship. Again, I offer these thoughts for our conversation and interaction! Feel free to reply, comment, or disagree at [email protected]
So, what about the persons in prayer.
This is the essence of his being according to 1 John 4. If you want to hear more on this, listen to our sermon from September 13 (https://www.covenantchurch.ca/podcasts/media/2020-09-13-beloved-our-foundation). As was quoted in the sermon, God being love means that God is revealed as "generous, self-giving, and compassionate." It is essential that we understand this in the context of prayer. God is not coercive in prayer. God doesn't make us pray; make us beg in prayer; or make demands of us in prayer. God invites. Some of the invitations in prayer may be invitations that are hard, but they will still be invitations offered out of love and meant for our good.
While we feel like we are the initiator in prayer, the starting point for prayer is always that this God who is love is inviting us into a relationship. Our prayer is, then, a response. My experience is that when we pray we often feel exhausted or angry or broken or alone or dejected or pious or demanding. Our words reflect those feelings. As we bring these realities to prayer, though, they are always met with love. Rather than trying to correct those ways of praying, love invites those prayers and affirms the feelings that are communicated. Again, God, in love, may invite us through them into something better for us. And God, in love, may invite us into things or ways of thinking that challenge our piety or break down our expectations. But love listens first.
Consider 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
This is what God brings to the relationship in prayer. And this is what we find as we learn to engage this God who is love as a person inviting us into a unique and powerful love relationship.
How could prayer change if we understand God in this way? What filters in how you/I speak might you/I put up or tear down if you/I were able to pray with this understanding of the persons involved? How might thinking about the persons involved in prayer in this way change our motivations in prayer? How might this impact the kinds of questions we ask about prayer? Let me know your thoughts!!