Towards A Theology Of Prayer, Pt. 2 - Imaging Prayer

A couple of days ago, I started the "Towards A Theology Of Prayer" mini-series, with a post focused on the definition of prayer (click HERE to read that post). One of my convictions is that so many people misunderstand prayer because they have a flawed definition of it. A fruitful prayer life, in many ways, begins with a good definition of prayer. It is also my opinion that a good definition of prayer will lead to or give birth to a good "image" of prayer. That's what I want to say a bit about in this post.

When I talk about an "image" of prayer, I am talking about what one envisions when they pray and/or think about the act/event of prayer. For example, some people have an image of the prayer event as a conversation between a child (themselves) and a white-bearded grandpa (God). Others think of God, when they're praying, as a type of Divine Gumball machine; they drop they prayer in, turn the lever and God dispenses the answer. Still, others treat God like a Cosmic Bellhop; place your order with the Divine and He'll serve it up. There are all sorts of images that go along with prayer and praying.

For quite a while, when I prayed, I would actually envision God's feet (no, I don't have a foot fetish!!!). My thinking was, "Since I don't know what God's face looks like, I'll just try to imagine feet." This actually led me to thinking about sitting a box at God's feet, a box in which I dropped all my worries, thoughts, problems, etc. I thought of myself as laying things at God's feet. Soon, however, I realized that this was a flawed image of prayer. Why? Because it didn't fit with the definition of prayer that I was developing and in all reality, it fit less and less with what I believed praying to be about.

I came to realize that the image I had linked with prayer, actually trumped my definition of prayer. That's how powerful images can be. And since we live in an "image-saturated" culture, I believe it is becoming increasingly important to have a good image to go along with prayer. So, what image do I have now? Well, let's return to my definition of prayer first: Prayer is attending to the presence of God both around us and in us.

I should point out here, that this definition, by default, centers prayer on God and not self; prayer is more about Him and less about me. Prayer is about finding out God's wants and desires, not really my own. In other words, prayer is about seeking God and attending to Him and His wants as much as possible. It is about being "fully" in His presence! And that's critical to having a fruitful prayer life: being "fully" in God's presence. (Now, this is quite different that the traditional understanding and approach to prayer where it is "self" centered. Some would even gripe here, "So, what's the point of prayer if it's not for or about me?" I used to think that way!) But prayer is about God and being in His presence! This leads into what image I employ at the present time. Currently, I am using the image of two persons making vows to one another, like in a wedding.

At my wedding, my wife and I, after writing our own vows, said them to one another. Along with the words said, what made that moment so powerful is that we were attempting to “fully” be in one another’s presence. We were looking into one another’s eyes and connecting with one another’s hearts and souls. That’s what prayer is about and is like. It is about connecting with God. And it is more about meeting His wants and desires than our own. It is connecting with God’s mind, heart and soul. It even takes forgetting self.

As I said above, it is my conviction that a healthy definition and image of prayer, lend themselves to having a fruitful prayer life. In my next post, I will deal with asking healthy questions in prayer and how this, coupled with a good definition and image, really lends itself to a great prayer life. Following that, I plan to show how a good definition, image and good questions ultimately answer many of the questions concerning prayer that people get hung up on. Until then, I hope these posts so far are being blessings to you.

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