Friday, April 5, 2013

Prayer as Protest

Devotions for Synod Theological Day on the Faith Practice of Prayer
Cormorant Lutheran Church, Lake Park, MN
April 4, 2013

It is a precarious thing, to say just a few words about prayer.   It’s perhaps even more dangerous to say many words about prayer….but that seldom stops us, and today will be no exception.    We can abide words about prayer, whether they be few or many, as long as those words about prayer lead us to pray.

So, Anne Lamott says that, when you get right down to it, there are just two kinds of prayers.   There are the help me, help me, help me prayers…..and alongside them—the thank you, thank you, thank you prayers.  And “that dog can hunt,” for most of us.

But the aphorism about prayer I’ve been pondering most of late comes from Karl Barth, who said this:  "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."

Let me say that again:  “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

Barth points us in the direction of prayer as protest, and that’s what has captured my imagination lately—how prayer is always, in one form or another—an expressing, a speaking out, a protesting against my old self and against the way things seem to be.    Prayer says that the way things are isn’t the way things were meant to be—and, in these Great Fifty Days we hasten to add:  prayer proclaims that the way things are isn’t the way things shall yet be in God’s New Creation that stepped gaily out of the tomb on Easter morning.

So when we clasp our hands in prayer, when we open our mouths to speak—daringly—to God, we are articulating a protest of sorts.    We are joining in an “uprising against the disorder of the world.”

We need look no farther than the quintessential prayer, the one that Jesus taught us, to see how protest weaves its way through the whole thing.   Although I have no claim on God, I am bold to say “Abba-Father.”   Although we spend most of our waking hours focused on our solitary selves, we pray, “Our Father.”   Although we’re surrounded by pretenders to the throne and alternative kingdom-visions, we protest:  “Holy be YOUR name, YOUR kingdom—bring it on, YOUR will—make it so.”   Always too easy to accept hunger or put up with endless strife, we beg for “our daily bread” and “forgiveness” and “deliverance” from all that is not right.   Famished for hope, maybe now more than ever, we insist that “the kingdom, the power and the glory are YOURS—O God!—forever and ever.”   And in the face of all this world’s “No”s we stubbornly, rebelliously insist on shouting an Amen!—a big fat YES, at the end of this and all our prayers.

So, let us think on such things today, and let our thinking and speaking and pondering about prayer, lead us to pray.   Here is one of my favorites, to lead us into this day:

Redeem us, O God, out of all our poor ways into thine.  Teach us thy will for us by calling us back each day to the things which we know are most certainly true.  Direct our lives by the constant pressure on them of other lives that have felt the touch of thy hand and loved the beauty of thy peace, until our faces be set toward thee, and all our hopes hid forever in thine.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

For All the Saints:  A Prayer Book For and By the Church, Vol. II, p. 973.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Larry, for this most inspiring reminder of why we pray and for what we pray.