Sunday, December 14, 2008

Encouragement in Prayer from Eugene Peterson

Prayer is hard for me – and I know I’m not the only one. In his section on Christ Playing in Community, Peterson talks about prayer as the lingua franca of God’s community. And he walks through three parables in Luke that are helpful for a prayer-struggler like myself. These might make for a good week of devotions and prayer time. I’ll put the passage and Peterson’s lesson briefly behind it.

The Neighbor (Lk. 11.5-13): Prayer should be weaved into daily life. It isn’t a formalized ritual thing with its own vocabulary and protocol. Peterson states, “Prayer is not ritualized language composed ceremonially for an audience with heavenly royalty. Our relation with God is as unpredictable, unplannable, and unrehearsed as life with our neighbors” (p. 276).

The Widow (Lk. 18.1-8): Everyone is on equal footing with God in prayer. Peterson: “…after a lifetime of being ignored it is hard to ‘pray always’ … Get used to being listened to by God” (p. 277). I love that. Get used to being listened to by God. Beautiful.

The Sinner (Lk. 18.9-14): The bottom line of prayer is that we are sinners in need of mercy and prayer should flow out of a deep need and desperation. Peterson: “Prayer is not casual. Prayer is not a whimsical nod upward. Prayer is urgent, nothing less than a life-and-death matter: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (p. 278). This is set in contrast to the Pharisee whose prayer consists of “I, I, I, I.” Peterson asks, “Where is God in all of this?” It is preening self-approval, not prayer.

I found these to be encouragement for my prayer challenges and yet helpful reminders that I’m far more desperate than I think I am.

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