(approximate read time: 5 minutes)
To the religiously affiliated, prayer is the stiffest of lifelines adhering one to the deep tenets of the faith. To the religiously ambiguous, prayer is the blind man’s hollow denial of crisis and avoidance in taking real action. The spiritual cite instances of prayer working for them as validation of the practice; the carnal cite instances of prayer vehemently not working as validation for their disentanglement from it. Both parties consider themselves to be the enlightened, while regarding their counterpart as the myopic, deluded rambler.
Yet, if questioned, there is not a single person of any faith who can deny the fact of unanswered prayers in their lives. Even when there was gratuitous significance on the line. Certain prayers just did not receive the miraculous reply. Likewise, if questioned, those who do not subscribe to any faith system cannot empirically claim that prayer has not irrigated blessing in their lives as well. Perhaps a praying grandmother would need to be consulted for such an inquiry, but the point stands that prayer as an active force in the lives of mortals cannot be altogether dismissed.
So what is prayer exactly? Do we have control over it? Does it have control over us? Is is ultimately pointless? Is it ultimately vital?
“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
“Devotion to prayer and intimacy with God is the only setting in which we can completely step into the fullness of God’s purposes.”
What if prayer is not necessarily power, but positioning? Not force, but flow?
If prayer itself is power, than he or she who prays most has the most power. It’s completely subjective. Subjective abilities deign no tether to an authentically calibrated morality. The most vile human being on the planet could have access to unlimited power, if prayer itself was, in fact, the power. And given the widespread examples of unanswered prayers, that clearly is not the case.
Yet this is how prayer is frequently taught. Phrases like “maybe I didn’t pray hard enough” denote a personal onus on the effectiveness of the prayer. However, this ought not be confused with the desire to pray fervently. We’ll circle back to that.
So, if prayer be not power, but positioning… how would that look? Well for starters it explains many things, based on an assumed premise. If one is being positioned, that means that there is an intended direction. And where there is intent, there is consciousness. Following here? God. So when we pray and things happen- we can safely assume it was supposed to happen. Likewise, when we pray and things don’t happen, we can safely assume they weren’t supposed to happen.
A surface understanding for mere context. But there are layers to this surmising that we have begun.
If something is “supposed” to happen… why do we need to pray for it? And if something isn’t supposed to happen… how could it? And if something has happened already… why would it change if it’s meant to be?
What if prayer actually positions us into the flow of God’s very essence? His pure energy and potency? A position where we do not merely sit idly by, but through some gracious act of His humility, actually inherit fellow authority over creation? Like a child sitting in his father’s lap turning the steering wheel, while his father manipulates the acceleration. The father is still running things, but there in the father’s lap, the son has gained influence.
So then the prayerful changes that do or do not happen directly correlate, not to our own prayer power, but to our positioning and maturity in that flow. But wait a minute. Would this then mean that God plays favorites with His influence? Well, is it playing favorites when the untrained child cannot drive without the father’s assistance, but the trained child is okay to drive with the father in the passenger seat?
We ought not be uncomfortable with the idea of spiritual maturity and influence, but we are. A human father would not give his child more influence than he or she was able to handle. Might not God be the same way?
Being evil and having a fruitful prayer life are then cleanly seen to be enemies of each other. It’s not that God does not hear the prayers of the wicked- it’s that God is good and if prayer is positioning, yet you still choose to be wicked, then you are rejecting the very power you beseech!
And now we have arrived back at the conflict of personal responsibility. If prayer is positioning and flow, then “praying harder” is a phrase without anchor. A sneeze in a hurricane. Of no substance or significance. Devoid of any true meaning. It can only be used to berate or manipulate, but has no real association with prayer itself (insofar as to what we have theorized it to be). However, in Scripture we see many instances of what has come to be known as “fervent prayer.” Where there is a personal intensity to this practice of subjecting one to this positioning and flow.
While the temptation at a sweeping, grandiose explanation hovers right there for us, I believe the answer is very simple. Anything you can do regularly, you can do passionately. Dancing, conversing, writing, playing video games, giving a high five, bike riding, etc. Heck, there’s even a difference between regular sleep and a DEEP sleep. Why not prayer? One’s emotional state does not increase the veracity of the action being taken, but it can serve to make one more engrossed in said action.
And as long as you bear in mind that, just like yelling at a sports game doesn’t make the players play better, being deeply emotional doesn’t make the prayer more powerful… everything is fine. Let your emotions take you down the path of prayer into a more concentrated effort in surrendering to the positioning and tuning in to the flow.
Now hear me- there are two absolutely vital guidelines when approaching prayer from this angle.
Because He is God, we must accept that some things simply won’t happen even though we pray for it. He is God.
Equally relevant, however, is that though everything might not happen according to our prayers, more things can happen than have been happening.
And I shall end on the premise.
What if prayer is not power, but positioning? Not force, but flow? An invisible wading into the essence and goodness and light of God? With such a dynamic baptism at our disposal… who might we become through a life of steady prayer?
What if prayer was actually given to us to make us more like God…
What if indeed.