One of the big blessings of growing up as an Army brat, was I got to live in Germany. From the git go, this helped me realize the beauty of otherness and value of different perspectives. So, when a friend said something about praying as a command/statement instead of a plea or request, because that’s what Bible characters frequently do, instead of immediately rejecting the notion, since it wasn’t what I was taught in church, I’ve been thinking about it. Today’s blog, then, is my attempt to think “out loud” about this and, hopefully, hear your thoughts!
While there certainly are a good number of passages concerning prayer that talk about asking or pleading for what one wants manifested in the world (especially in the abstract), there are also a good amount in the imperative, meaning they’re directions. Consider the Lord’s Prayer. Not only are there no question marks, there’s nary a “please”. Jesus says to say “give” us our bread, “forgive” us our wrongs, and “lead us not” into temptation … period. Isn’t that interesting? The tense of the model prayer to end all model prayers is imperative! The Lord’s Prayer, in this regard, is a statement with expectation.
In Psalm 3 when King David is scared, and on the run, because one of his sons had rebelled against him and thrown the whole nation into turmoil, he prays: “Rise up, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God!” (Psalm 3.7a NRSV) King Hezekiah is similarity direct/blunt with the Divine in 2 Kings 19.14-19. After learning his land has been invaded by Assyria (the global superpower of the era), the king prays for help without a question mark or “please”. He begins and ends with praise and honor for the Creator, while telling God to “incline your ear”, “open your eyes”, “and “hear the words” of the enemies, who come to steal from and destroy everyone in their way, while mocking the God of life. “Save us, I pray you,” King Hezekiah says, “so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” (2 Kings 2.19b, NRSV) In both instances the prayers were answered.
Before we continue, I’ll pause to say: I don’t want to go through a laundry list of verses, make a strong case for or against praying as a statement/command, or even “convince” you of anything. And I definitely don’t want to communicate the more certain or emphatic a prayer is, the more likely it is to be answered! In the end, I’d say praying in whatever way feels natural, sacred, reverent, and powerful in you, is a great way to pray!
Jesus, among other things, is the prototype for humanity. The Christ showed us what it means to be FULLY alive by living in a constant state of harmony, connection, and union with others and the Divine. He gives us a model for what it means to think, speak, act, and relate with the Flow of Life. I find it endlessly instructive that Jesus said WE will do GREATER things than Him (John 14.12), and that he did NOTHING outside the character, actions, will, energy, and flow of God (John 5.19, 5.30, 8.28).
In looking at Jesus’ life, when we read about Him healing, restoring, and freeing people (things we’d pray for), it’s less of an ask and wait scenario, and more of a speak and it happens type situation. While fully admitting you and I are NOT Jesus, I also remind us at least part of what He did was to show us The Way.
In a manner of speaking, the Christ invented a new style of dancing … which we’re meant to mimic with our own unique flair and fabulousness! When He sent His disciples out to spread the Good News we read: “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. … ‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.‘” (Matthew 10.1 & 8, NIV, emphasis mine)
After Jesus later ascended to heaven, we read this story about His followers: “There [Peter] found a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. ‘Aeneas,’ Peter said to him, ‘Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and roll up your mat.'” (Acts 9.33-34, NIV) From what I read of the text, we get the strong impression this was NOT an unusual occurrence, and that Christ followers regularly spoke and enacted prayers with power and purpose.
I wonder if much of this doesn’t boil down to praying in an empowered way versus disempowered manner? It seems to me David, Hezekiah, Jesus, and Peter were plugged into the Source, so were able to state/command heavenly goodness from that healthily empowered place. I’d venture to say a good rule of thumb could be to pray in a way that makes one feel greater connection, deeper intimacy, and more agency.
In writing this I feel like staying/wrestling with the idea of prayer as a statement or command unlocked something for me. I noticed that in the same way Jesus said He got His authority from our Heavenly Parent, He also gave power to manifest goodness to His disciples, and I have a hunch this is a Flow we’re invited to join! The author of The Book of Job has Eliphaz put it like this:
“Agree with God, and be at peace;
in this way good will come to you.
then you will delight yourself in the Almighty,
and lift up your face to God.
You will pray to him, and he will hear you,
and you will pay your vows.
You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you,
and light will shine on your ways.” (Book of Job 22.21, 26-28, NRSV, emphasis mine)
In short, the more we bury our heads in Divine goodness, celebrate the Light from which we came, and align our energies with heaven, the more we think, speak, and act for/from God!
During and following my second divorce I felt incredibly unloved and unlovable. I didn’t ask or plead with God to Love me; I knew the Creator does … more than words can say. So, I began praying repetitively this prayer/mantra every day for several years: “I am Loved! I am Loved! I am Loved! …” While my prayer didn’t change the facts, I still got divorced, it certainly changed my reality, I felt deeply Loved.
I believe healing, freedom, restoration, and unity are part of the Divine Flow and power of prayer. So, when we pray as a statement or command in those ways, we’re not bossing God around, we’re speaking God’s will to creation. In the same way Jesus was a conduit for our Divine Parent’s goodness and His disciples were repeaters for His, I believe when we commune with the Divine, we receive heaven so we can give it away! When we’re plugged into the Source, connected to others, and in tune with creation, I think we can pray with confidence and purpose because, like in my example, even if the facts don’t change, some level of heavenly goodness will result and our reality will! What do you think?
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