We Live As We Pray

Originally written in October, 2015

A confession. Prayer is something I've struggled to make sense of over the years. Why do we pray? I've read a number of books, I've asked people of differing perspectives, I've dabbled in a variety of prayer traditions and I still don't truly have an answer. I even spent a couple years where I just abandoned the practice altogether but that didn't stick. I just couldn't shake the lingering thought that God somehow listens and cares. But I still don't get it.

This past year I read two wonderful blog posts by others who have had the same frustrating relationship with prayer as I have. Their honesty offered me both a relief that I wasn't alone in my struggle and also a framework for moving forward that I can appreciate. I share some of their thoughts here to give context.

God IS, and s*** happens, and prayer works - That's where I'm at. I understand how prayer brings you and me and God close about as well as I understand how I'm wirelessly connected to you right now through internet-magic. But I'm pretty sure that all of Creation is woven together in a tangled web of community, fully united by God, because we were never meant to be alone.
- Jamie the very worst missionary, Let Us Pray

So for Jamie, prayer is about connectivity. As we pray for others, we are reminded that we are all connected to one another.

Prayer isn’t so much a tool than it is an identity, a mode of being and relating to the world. Specifically, prayer is the practice of what David Kelsey has called doxological gratitude. Which is to say that prayer is both renunciation and receptivity.
- Richard Beck, Prayer As Eucharistic Identity 

For Richard, prayer is about identity. We are formed by what we pray. It is what I would call an inner transformation that leads to outer manifestation; we become expressions of joy, peace, love, gratitude, and mercy.

What strikes me as important is that in both reflections, prayer is something that matters to how we are to live in relationship with others. This is where I can get on board. Moving prayer entirely out of the private and spiritual realms and into the communal and physical.

A few weeks ago I was reading a book on the missional church and stumbled across this statement, "we live as we pray." It's sat with me since then. The more I think about it, the more I agree with it.

If we pray for global justice, we will be more bent on participating in justice projects.

If we pray for the poor, we will orient our lives to helping them.

If we pray for the strengthening of community, we will work at building a stronger community.

If I only pray for things that concern MY life, I will live accordingly.

This to me speaks to the power of the Lord's Prayer. Both in wording and in theme, it is a prayer given to us as those who follow the Way of Jesus to turn our lives to become a community that reflects those things. We are meant, as a church, to embody the compassion, justice, and peace of the reign of God in this world. When we pray, give us this day our daily bread, it confronts us with a call to live simply and to join in the feeding of those who lack their daily bread.

The Lord's prayer is designed to shape our prayer life as a community and in turn how we live together.