Where our best prayers take us…

Posted by on Aug 28, 2022 in Blog | 0 comments

crop black man showing pray gesture

My previous post noted the passing of Frederick Buechner and tapped into some of his wisdom. In this one I’d like to explore a passing comment which appears in a series of rapid fire advice in his memoir Telling Secrets. It’s:”Go where your best prayers take you.”

Why do I love this?

First, it’s refreshing to acknowledgment that some prayers are better than others – we have our “best prayers”, but also our selfish prayers, our tiny prayers, our insular prayers, our sectarian prayers, our fearful prayers.

What do our best prayers look like?

They are prayers made with an open heart and open hands, reflecting a willingness for us to be part of God’s work in the world. They are prayers that are not just about us – not that prayers about us are wrong, but just that when our prayers are only about us we become too small. It’s worth remembering that the Lord’s prayer starts with the “our” word, not the “my” word. “Our Father who is in Heaven” – not “My Father”. It’s not just about me, and so my prayers shouldn’t be at your expense – and yes, it does apply when I am praying for my sporting team to win, not yours, and is perhaps why such prayers are in the trivial category. Should I therefore not pray for parking bays? No problem if you do, but if your prayer life rarely amounts to more, something is amiss.

Second, I’m challenged by the idea that prayer leads to a journey – we go where our best prayers lead us. Rather than prayer being passive, it requires something from me. If I pray for justice, I can’t continue to exploit others. If I pray that the needs of the poor will be met, I cannot hoard what I possess. If I pray that others will come to know the transforming love of Jesus, I cannot refuse to speak about my faith.

Jesus encouraged us to pray a “best” prayer – albeit a dangerous one. You find it in Matt 6:5-15 in what we usually call “The Lord’s Prayer.” When we pray this “best” prayer we ask that God’s name will be hallowed, and must therefore commit ourselves to guarding God’s reputation – for if we act in a way that tarnishes the name “Christian”, in what way is God’s name hallowed? When we pray “your Kingdom come” we are implicitly praying, “my Kingdom go”, for seeking God’s Kingdom first is not often compatible with giving preference to our own agenda, even though those whose who seek God’s Kingdom find that all things are added to them (Matt 6:33). You can’t pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, and hold on to old resentments and unforgiving actions. You can’t pray, “lead us not into temptation” and then make a desperate effort to stand in temptation’s path.

Third, our best prayers recognise that prayer is more than therapy. Things happens when we pray – and when things happen, life takes many interesting twists and turns. Rather than “pray and forget about it” we often pray, and then get invited to participate in a wild and exhilarating journey of being part of the answer to our prayers.

This week, why not reflect on where your best prayers are inviting you? And why not go there?

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Feel free to repost with acknowledgement or to forward to any who might find it helpful.

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