Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of gratitude. James 5:13
Anthology on Prayer: Part 2
A few weeks ago I contacted several of my friends and asked them to comment on two questions about the topic of prayer. They were kind enough to send back their responses for us to read. These were the questions that I asked.
1: What is prayer to you?
2: Does prayer work?
In Anthology on Prayer Part 1, we had guests Nicole Conner, Dr Ps John Drane and Cameron Semmens. You can read their thoughts here: Anthology on Prayer Part One.
Today our guests on the blog are Joel McKerrow and Mark Conner.
Let me introduce you to Joel McKerrow. Joel is one of the most beautiful and deep souls you will ever meet. He is a safe place, a harbour of peace and a wonder with words.
Joel McKerrow is a writer, speaker, educator, community arts worker and one of Australia’s most successful internationally touring performance poets. Based out of Melbourne, Australia he is the Artist Ambassador for the aid and development organisation ‘TEAR Australia’ and currently teaches at Whitley College. Accomplished author and poet, Joel is passionate about discovering a new way to live outside the system of the Empire of Greed and spends much of his time trying to match his actions with this belief.
Father Richard Rohr talks about Joel here:
“The old windows are not letting in much light. Nor do they allow people to look out, through and beyond. We see it everywhere: in the cynicism of politics, the machinery of the market, the intransigence of religion passing for faith, and the ravaged quality of so many human lives. Light is not getting through. We have always waited and asked for better windows, a truer lens, some ways to see the brightness and goodness that we somehow know is there. It is to this deeper, already knowing, that Joel McKerrow appeals. He draws us through a much better window.”
~ Father Richard Rohr, The Centre for Action and Contemplation ~
Joel, what is prayer to you?
1. Prayer is a movement of the self toward the divine. It is, in the everydayness of life, a choosing to be present and a giving of ones attention to the God who is always present and attentive toward us. It is an opening up of ones cognition, emotion and physicality toward this God.
Prayer is the thin place between the invisible world and the visible. It is the turning of the ache and the wound and the desire and the shadow toward the sacred one and in doing so being transformed.
Does prayer work?
2. The term ‘work’ might be problematic when we come to prayer. Especially in our Western understanding of progress and production and fast-food gratification. Most often prayer does not feed our expectations, which can feel as though it is therefore not ‘working’. However, prayer is never about the destination of an answer, of something that ‘worked’. It is more a re-orientation of the self, it offers a way to know the presence of God regardless of what the reality of life might about to be.
If the point of prayer is simply a movement of the self toward the divine, then it works every time.
Mark Conner is one of the kindest people you will meet and is a family friend. Mark has been involved in church leadership for over three decades. He is a gifted leader, author and speaker who brings a wealth of wisdom and life experience to whatever he engages in.
Mark has a genuine love for people and a passion to help them grow and change. He has a Masters of Arts degree in theology from Ridley College and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. You can follow Mark here on his blog: Mark Conners Space
1. What is prayer to you?
To me, prayer is simply conversation with God. It is endeavouring to live all of life with a constant awareness that he is with me and for me. It includes speaking to him – audibly but also just in my thoughts at times – but also listening for him – not always speaking through tangible words to me but also through thoughts, promptings, feelings and sometimes simply through an amazing sense of peace. Like our very breath, to me prayer is meant to be like the air that we breathe, not something we merely do at the beginning of the day in a ‘quiet time’ or in a formal church meeting.
2. Does prayer work?
I don’t see prayer as a way to manipulate God to do what I want him to do. Much of the formulaic methodologies of how to pray in order to twist God’s arm to act as I think he should smells of magic incantations to me.
To me, prayer works in that it makes me more aware of God and it reminds me that I am not in charge of the world, which is good news.
Thank you Mark and Joel for your insights and your wisdom.
Our prayers are precious to God. They represent His promises to us, and His relationship with us. If you are going through a really challenging time at the moment and you feel like there is no hope. Or that prayer is just a waste of time. I will leave you with these words from N.T.Wright. Taken from an interview with Dargan Thompson on August 18 2015.
So what do you say to people who are in a rough period and they’re waiting for something to happen and it just isn’t coming?
In that period of waiting, it’s like when you sow a seed in the ground in the fall, in the autumn, and you want to be impatient. You want to say, “I planted the seed, I want something to grow straight away, please.” But you have to wait through the winter.
During the winter, it isn’t that nothing is happening, it’s that the seed is germinating out of sight underground. It needs to be there. In the spring, when the new shoots happen, it looks sudden to us, because we haven’t seen anything going on until then, but actually, stuff has been going on underground.
Again and again, God works underground in our lives, in our imaginations, in our personal circumstances and in the wider world, and then suddenly something new happens, a new project, a new moment in our lives, and we’re astonished at it. T.S. Elliot had that wonderful poem that’s part of his four quartets where he says, “Wait without thought, for you are not yet ready for thought.” In other words, don’t even try to figure out what’s going on. If God has kept you in the dark at the moment, it may be because you have to go through a winter season in order that the spring, when it comes, will find those new plants well rooted and well bedded in.
That’s very difficult, because the darkness looks just dark. But that’s where we cling onto the teaching and promise of Jesus. Jesus taught those parables about seeds growing secretly and so on precisely in order that people could latch onto the promise that even when it looks dark, looks as though nothing is happening, God is at work and the seeds will indeed produce fruit at the right time.
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