Saturday, February 28, 2015

Prayer: active or passive?

More reflections on prayer from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones:
. . . . prayer is not bending God to our wills--it is the bringing of our wills to God's.   When we throw out a boat hook and catch hold of the shore, do we pull the shore to ourselves?  Rather we pull ourselves to the shore.  Prayer does not pull God to us, it pulls us to God.  It aligns our wills with His will, so that He can do things through us that He would not otherwise have been able to do.  An almighty Will works through our weak wills, and we can do things all out of proportion to our ability.  Prayer is, therefore, not overcoming God's reluctance; it is laying hold of His highest willingness.  Those who pray link up with that willingness.   
After reading this passage, I tried to visualize a boat being pulled closer to shore.  I was in a little row boat, and God was using a rope tied to the boat to pull me in to shore.  This wasn't the boat hook image that Jones mentioned.  His boat operator had used the hook to snag a piece of the shore.  I, on the other hand, passively sat in my boat feeling grateful that God was bringing me closer.

The idea that prayer moves us closer to God's will is very appealing.  My hope is that, once aligned with God's will, I would be more willing and able to cooperate with God's activity in the world.  If the kind of prayer Jones described can give me a greater insight into where God is active, then it's worth adjusting my current prayer routine and giving Jones' technique a try.

Identifying where God is acting is a challenge for me.  Often I end up hooking a shore, pulling as hard as I can, and finally arriving only to discover that where I've landed might agree with my plans, but it doesn't coincide with God's plan.

Sometimes it's best to pause, cease my efforts, and check my bearings.  During that pause, if God adjusts my course and pulls me in the right direction, then my passivity was beneficial.  (Admitting that inaction can be good, is an admission I make with great reluctance.)

What does your experience tell you?  Prayer as you reaching out and hooking God, or prayer as allowing God to hook you, which have you experienced, which do you prefer, and which was more effective?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What is Prayer?

In his book Victorious Living, E. Stanley Jones shared this description of his experience of prayer:
". . . I mean that my lesser spirit can come into intimate, personal contact with the Spirit called God, that I can come to a common understanding with Him, can adjust my will to His will, and through the contact can find my personality heightened, enlightened, re-enforced, used.

. . . I have gone to my knees broken, all in, defeated, and have arisen, re-enforced, new and victorious.  Everything within me said I had met God."
This morning I went to prayer feeling overwhelmed with my to-do list.  Prayer did not reduce the list.  It's still burdensome, but its weight is not as great.  I turned to God in prayer, and God pushed back against the stress.  It was as if God gave me a little more breathing room.  Just enough extra space so that I can go into the day with an improved attitude.

Based on my experience, I would add to Jones' list the word "expanded".  Through prayer-contact we can find enlightenment, re-enforcement, and expansion.

May you make contact today.