Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Praying Like Jesus

Prayed the Lord’s Prayer when I woke this morning.*

“Our Father”: Jesus teaches a way of prayer that emphasizes God is OUR's, not mainly the Father of ME, but OUR communion.

“Father” emphasizes in contrast to the non-theists—whether militant secularists or religious humanists—that the Ultimate Reality of the Cosmos is personal, loving, guiding, disciplining, and generating.

“in Heaven” seems a strong contradiction to the theologizing of so many who now emphasize the omnipresence of God. My understanding of this difficulty is Jesus thinks of God as mainly transcendent, beyond this present physical reality.

How then is God immanent? By his Spirit. For instance, in John 14:20, Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” And in Luke 3:22, Scripture states, “and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased.”

Here, again, God speaks from heaven (as in Jesus’ Prayer), but his Spirit is pictured metaphorically like a dove coming “down” into this immanent world. And in Luke 4:14, the text says, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee…”

We see this reference to “spirit” on the human level as well when Paul writes to the Colossians at 2:5, “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit…”

The Bible in John 4:24 states, “God is Spirit." So I suppose, if we want to get into abstract theorizing, then God in his transcendence is “in heaven,” God in his immanence “descends on earth,” and God incarnates into humankind, present in "the Chosen One," Jesus.

But, remember, there has been 2,000 years of tempestuous, violent Christian-infighting over theological theorizing, so to me as a Friend, it seems better to speak experientially and pictorially. Besides, the abstractions almost always make Jewish and Islamic people think we are talking about 3 gods, weakening the central truth of monotheism.

Is it not better to stay with the descriptive focus of Scripture such as in the last book? Revelation speaks of “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him…and from the seven spirits (“seven-fold Spirit”).”

In most of the Bible, Ultimate Reality is described this way:

__________________________Transcendent Eternal God_______________________________

God’s Spirit


/ \

/ \

/ \

Then in the “fullness of kairos (the right or opportune time)


Into Humanity
Through Jesus
(“The Chosen One”)

/ \

/ \

By God’s Spirit into each of us,
and into our communities of individuals

This is just a pictorial of the New Testament descriptions, not any claim to ultimate invisible Truth. But it seems to make more sense than the Trinitarian creedal explanations which were esoterically theoretical and didn’t use biblical language but argued over abstract points such as whether Jesus had two natures, etc. All of that gets so complicated, confusing, and contradictory, and makes no sense in human terms.

Besides, of what practical ethical difference did it (does it) make whether Jesus was (is) essentially one Greek term or another, terms most people can’t even pronounce, let alone understand?!

Terms that many scholars can't even agree as to what they originally meant. And for which Christians in the past slaughtered other Christians! And for which Christians still verbally attack each other. Terms so confusing that Jewish and Islamic people think we aren’t monotheistic. Terms at the popular level of Christianity that have led to superstition contrary to Scriptural descriptions.

Back to Jesus’ model prayer:-)

Isn’t it odd that Jesus hasn’t taught his committed followers to pray? Instead one of them speaks up when Jesus himself finishes praying and asks to be taught to pray like John the Baptist has already taught his committed followers.

Why didn't Jesus start out at the very beginning to teach his disciples how to pray? Did he assume they already knew how? Or was he intentionally waiting for them to ask?

Or did he want their prayers to God to be made spontaneously like his own? Maybe he intentionally, at first, modeled how to pray.

* Meaningful in a way that openness praying and meditation haven’t been in the past few months, and definitely more meaningful than my daily, nearly, constant petitionary crying out to God. I admit I feel much more like the Psalmist in Psalms 88 than George Fox or John Woolman or John Wesley…though such leaders, also, had their “dark nights of the soul.”

Fox spoke of “an ocean of darkness” that covered him. At one point in his life he lay in bed for days, oppressed! And late in his life, during a despairing time, Wesley wrote in a private letter that he had never truly loved God!!

But God loves us even in our doubts and our despairing…

In the Light of God,

Daniel Wilcox


Tom Smith said...

My feelings on prayer have changed quite a bit over the years. Some of that has come from being asked on many occasions to "perform ritual" prayer at meals or family gatherings where I was supposedly the "religious" one. Some of it from the, to me, hypocritical prayers of those seeking victory all the way from an athletic game to horrific wars where both sides prayed for defeat of their enemies. Also, a continuing examination of the "disciples prayer" leads me to "pray without ceasing" to bring the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in the Spiritual realm. Unless my life reflects what I am praying for it seems that my prayers hit a wall and so I have chosen to try to live the live as I understand it and to leave the mental expressions be focussed on what I am trying to do rather than what I want to "say."

Katya said...

Hello Dan,
Happy New Year to you! And Merry Christmas! Thank you for commenting on my post. Both Joe and I are wishing you all good things. May this year be better than the previous one for you and your family

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Tom,

Yes! I agree that it is much more important to live our prayers, than to verbalize them.

Thanks for stopping by.


Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Katya,

Thanks for stopping by to say hi.

May you and Joe have a blessed New Year too.