Praying with Jesus #1

I love to pray.

When I was a kid, I started praying by compiling a prayer list – names of folks who I desired to see know Jesus (family and friends mostly, and ome celebrities).  I prayed through the list each morning.  Then when breakfast came around, I prayed for breakfast.  When lunch came I prayed for lunch.  When dinner came I prayed for dinner.  When bedtime came I prayed for good dreams.  Occasionally I would pray for other things too: nice weather the next day, health, and so forth.

The important point here is that prayer for me was MOSTLY, if not exclusively, about “the ask”.  Thus, while I enjoyed praying and was a pretty consistent pray-er, there was a measure of anxiety built into the system.  “Will God come through for me on all these things I’m asking him for…?” I would nervously wonder.

I think that most people’s prayer lives – if they exist at all – are probably stuck in neutral in exactly that place.  Prayer is a semi-anxious exchange between people and a mysterious Deity who sometimes delivers what we ask for and sometimes does not.  It is not hard to see why prayer does not hold much joy for most people.

My conviction is that the life of prayer is central to the work of spiritual formation.  We are told in the New Testament that the Spirit’s work is to remake is in the image of the Son, Christ Jesus, so that our lives should be on an increasing trajectory of conformity to our Elder Brother.  As my own prayer life has matured, it has not left behind the “ask” necessarily, but has come to incorporate practices and habits guided by the intuition of what the Eastern Orthodox would call theosis–that God’s desire for me is that I would die and rise again with Christ daily, with the result that my being is increasingly shot through with Divine Light, Life, Love, and Power.

Fortunately for us, we don’t need to journey so far as the Eastern Orthodox to learn how to pray in this way.  Sitting and learning at Jesus’ feet will do just fine, for Jesus, the Son of the Father, teaches us to pray as Sons and Daughters of the Father.

In the next couple weeks I’ll be blogging through the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:9-13) in a series of posts called “Praying with Jesus”, the goal of which is open up pathways for understanding prayer that are deeper and richer than most of us are typically exposed to.  I hope you’ll join me.



4 thoughts on “Praying with Jesus #1

  1. Very interested to follow this upcoming series. I especially like this: “Prayer is a semi-anxious exchange between people and a mysterious Deity who sometimes delivers what we ask for and sometimes does not.” That was pretty much my experience too as an evangelical, charismatic growing up in Rhema’ish type churches. My solution was to basically ignore prayer and replace it with study. Not the best way to go.

    I don’t know if this will come up again in your series, but I’d be interested in your understanding of the Orthodox doctrine of theosis.

  2. Hey Eric – the theosis thing may not much, except in a sidelong way. Probably you can help me clarify my own understanding of theosis, but essentially I see it as the 2 Peter 1 thing, becoming participants in the Divine nature by the power of the Holy Spirit. For me, Paul’s “in Christ” talk gestures powerfully in this direction. Our being “born again” is a death out-of the old adam and a coming alive in-to Christ Jesus, the Last Adam, who becomes the new animus in us (Gal 2:20). Etc etc.

    So prayer in large part is about Christ Jesus taking shape in me… the Divine Life manifesting in me more and more… as I am increasingly gathered up into God-self.

  3. Yah, that’s an excellent summary. I think I was confused by this: “Fortunately for us, we don’t need to journey so far as the Eastern Orthodox to learn how to pray in this way. Sitting and learning at Jesus’ feet will do just fine…”

    I wasn’t sure how you were tying in theosis with prayer, sounded as if you were saying the Orthodox are taking the long route around the mountain via theosis. For the Orthodox, the reverse is true – theosis is the shortcut exit out of the wilderness of the intellect. It frees prayer from remaining cerebral and invites one’s whole being to participate in Christ.

    Can’t wait to read the next installment.

    • Oh gotcha. I only meant that the series wasn’t going to be a long journey into the Orthodox doctrine of theosis, and would instead focus on the content of the Lord’s Prayer. But word to what you said about theosis and the intellect…

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