I came across a prayer that we used for worship in our Spiritual Training Community months ago. I experienced a surge of emotion when I read it again. I think some of it was nostalgia, a longing for what used to be. But as I reflected on what was going on inside of me, I realized that there is a deeper longing for what is to come. I long for a community where God’s love so abounds that it transforms how we pray. So many of my prayers are still saturated with “self.” Help me. Protect me. Give me. Forgive me. Empower me.
As I read this prayer, I found my imagination stirred in two ways. I dream of a community where our prayers move from the “I’s” and “me’s” of an individualistic culture to the “we’s” and “us'” of Trinitarian love and community. A missional community’s prayers should focus on the community more than the individual. Sure, individual prayers are important, but a shift in perspective needs to occur so that the dominant prayer becomes community prayer. Remember, Jesus saves a “people” (Titus 2:14).
Second, I dream of a community where our prayers move from what I or we want to what God REALLY wants. That one is tricky because our hearts are so deceitful that many times we try to “sanctify” our agendas so they look like God’s agenda. But it is here where we need the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Only as we train our minds to synchronize with the mind of Christ through death to self can we truly know what God’s intentions are.
What does God want? Some of the things that come to mind are smallness, hiddenness, humility, forgiveness, authenticity, justice and compassion. It probably means focusing on people and not effectiveness or numbers. It probably means working on myself rather than noticing how others need to change. It probably means finding pleasure in the simple things and not murmuring about inconveniences.
All I know is that a lot more imagination needs to be used in the area of prayer! As Paul Evdokimov says, “Our whole life, every act and gesture, even a smile must become a hymn or adoration, an offering, a prayer. We must become prayer — prayer incarnate.”
So what was the prayer I read? Here it is. As you read it, also pray it. And as you pray it, give your imagination permission to dream of prayer beyond our current experiences.
“Gracious God, humble us through the violence of your love so we are able to know and confess our sins. We want our sins to be interesting, but, God forgive us, they are so ordinary: envy, hatred, meanness, pride, self-centeredness, laziness, boredom, lying, lust, stinginess and so on. You have saved us from ?and so on? to be a royal people able to witness to the world that the powers that make us such ordinary sinners have been defeated. So capture our attention with the beauty of your life that the ugliness of sin may be seen as just that — ugly. God how wonderful it is to be captivated by you. Amen.”
Lord, help us to become “prayer incarnate.”