Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

When Faith Becomes A Weapon: Terrorism in Paris

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Faith and religion, at there best, represent incredible forces towards healing, mercy, kindness … the better angels of our nature.  And at times faith and religion represent the exact opposite as they did in Paris yesterday with the killing of 12 individuals who worked for the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, a killing carried out by Islamic terrorists.

Religiously fueled terrorism of this sort is especially depraved.  It grows out of a mindset anchored in a view of God as wrathful, angry, vindictive … clothing God then in our depravities.  The frightening nature of these attacks however may stem mostly from the fact that they can be perpetrated guilt free.  A crazy, transparently false line of reasoning may go, “If God calls for, sanctions and blesses such an attack, who am I to feel guilty carrying it out?”

What then is the answer?  What do we do when faith becomes a weapon?

For some, this attack yet again reinforces the dangers of religion as a whole, a thought which gives rise to much of the militant atheism in Western culture.  And that is understandable in a sense if all one knows of religion are these attacks.

Important to note however that some of the worse of modern day demagogues clearly rejected religion.  Hitler, Stalin and Mao …. all saw religion as weak.   All worked to eliminate it from their nations.  Each killed millions. Hitler repeatedly noted that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science, which in the long run could not “co-exist with religion.”  While he did reference Christianity, no doubt playing to political concerns, it is hard to imagine he held any sincere Christian beliefs given his virulent anti-semitism.

So what then is the answer?

To do what Christians are called to do.

To stand for peace.  To “bind the wounds” of the broken.   And importantly, to pray.  And that prayer is for the healing of those hurt. For the grieving families of those who have lost loved ones.  For the trauma of a nation.  And that prayer is even for the terrorists themselves, as hard and as misaligned as that may appear.

Three prayers in Christianity – The Lord’s Prayer/ The Our Father – the Oneness prayer in John – and Christ’s Prayer of Forgiveness of the Cross.  All call on us to pray for healing.

  • “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
  • “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
  • “Father forgive them for know not what they do.”

That does not erase the need for accountability.  These attacks must be confronted and denounced, facing the darkness in the human heart, wherever it may reside.

And the spirit of that confrontation must return us yet again to the better angels of our nature.



Where does prayer come from?

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Where does prayer comes from?

For many, prayer is at times a rather dry exercise of hollow incantations.  Words lacking meaning.  Lacking soul.  And then there are other moments of prayer.  Where prayer is who we are … entire bodies and lives a prayer … “My legs were praying” as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it as he marched with Martin Luther King in Selma Alabama.

Where does that kind of prayer arise?  From movement.  From soul.  From God.  From within.

“Prayer comes from truth inside you, and you are continually at prayer when you live according to that truth.” Apocalypse Explained 493 Emanuel Swedenborg

Such prayer then is not a prayer for a thing per se.  (And a thing prayer often is often not more than a pleading with an imagined god of conditional love.)  It is prayer as a motion towards the Divine that grows from where we are, who we are.

We only can pray for what we have experienced

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Here is a unique thought around prayer:

“God seems to plant within us the desire  to pray for what God already wants to give us, and even better, God has already begun to give to us!  We are always just seconding the motion, but the first motion is always and forever God’s.  The fact that you prayed a all means God just started giving to you a second ago.”

I read these words after an early morning walk east down Arch street in Philadelphia.  Looking at the buildings and the city starting to awaken, the words of a theologian whose name escapes me rang true.  ”If God could have saved man without Creation, He would never have made Creation.”   I think the same holds true for our lives – our individual lives are the ONLY means of salvation, of creating a new person.  Discovering that creation is one of the utmost joys of lifes and one of life’s most difficult journeys.

For me, over this past week, much of that struggle has been around how do I pray for NewChurch LIVE, for this church?  To pray to be Andy Stanley and North Point – peerless preaching, huge numbers, immense energy – appears egotistical and self serving.  To not pray is patently a cop out.  So what does one pray for especially when it is something so important?

The prayer then ends up being one of wishing God’s blessing on this endeavor – that we reach and serve countless folks.  Hopefully in saying it I do not limit God to numbers – a capitalist habit of answering “how many?” that often does not belong as central to conversations around mission.   But I do believe the intention to humbly serve behind a prayer for growth is maybe the best spirit of prayer, right now, that I can offer.

And if Richard Rohr’s words cited above are right, that prayer is God’s prayer, AND we have actually started to experience it.  How else would we know what we are praying for?  That does not mean we will inevitably hit our objectives and goals.  There no doubt will be many, many necessary failures leading this group in unanticipated directions.  But can we surrender up our view of how things must play out and allow God to do His work?  Knowing that our prayers, at their best are his prayers too?  Knowing that the only way there is this journey, as it is, right now, here today?

Allowing Prayer to Happen to Us

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

The majority of Americans report praying daily.  It is something however we rarely discuss.  (Americans tend to be profoundly spiritual AND profoundly private about it.)

In the future, we will be doing a small group program around prayer and/ or a one day workshop on prayer.  Prayer is a discipline – a part of the “work” that centers us in a spiritual life.

A part of growth is the shift from seeing prayer as something that we do, to seeing prayer as something that is done to us.  Prayer, from a New Church perspective, is as Emanuel Swedenborg noted “Conversation with God.”  It is conversation in which God’s response is often hope or comfort.

Prayer is not, as one author noted, an “intelligence briefing to God” though that is where we often start.  There is nothing wrong with this approach but it is only a start on the spiritual path.  At some time we must shift – moving away from one-way monologue in which we “report” our lives and requests to God to a movement towards a space in which we are quiet enough to “hear” God in the language that God speaks.

That takes discipline.  For me, such an approach works best when I arrive at prayer with a simple request to “know nothing.”  That seems to be a far healthier space for an obnoxious “doer” like myself.  From that space, at times, I can breath into a presence of God in which I think He can speak – not a speech of “today’s winning lottery number will be …” but a speech that includes words that settle deeply into my soul.  This past week for example that included ‘humanity’ and ‘What opens people to faith.’   The difference, restated, would be praying before a worship, early on a Sunday morning, “Lord help me to communicate ‘x’” vs. “Lord, what would you have me say today?”

Believe it or not, one prayer I find particularly effective – “Lord, take it all.  Leave me nothing but clear window.”

From there, prayer can happen to us – shining right on in.

I want to see God but I can’t

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Many people want to “see” God, experience God.  But the “seeing”, the experience, eludes them.  How then do we see God when our best efforts seem to leave us “without”, searching within what appears to b a vacuum?

To start, God simply “is.”  That means that God is something we awaken to vs. journey to.  We can often fall into the belief that certain actions will inevitably lead us to the experience of God.  I have not found that to be true.  My understanding is that we do those “actions’ – be they prayer, reading, meditation, service, worship – so that we are awake when God shows up. They do not create the experience.  They do however ensure that we are awake enough to know when the experience arrives.

Secondly, God’s presence is most often not of the “clouds parting” “trumpet blaring” variety.  The experiences tend to be far more gentle.  One author compared God’s voice to being as quiet as the beating of our own heart  (Try listening to your heart beating to get an idea of what that means).  While some individuals do experience the granduer of God in dramatic fashion – i.e. Martin Luther, Emanuel Swedenborg, Bill Wilson – most of us experience God in more muted yet not any less powerful ways.  That is why perhaps Jesus spoke of the presence of the Divine as the spirit, a word that can be translated “wind.”

One author’s point is one I have been thinking a great deal about recently.  Her perspective grew out of a endless prayers for the experience of Divine.  What she came to realize was that God’s answer to her longing was her longing.  It was that love, that compassion, that “pull” in her heart that bore great fruit in her life, a “pull” that might have moved her more in her life than any dramatic presentation of God.

If the pull to experience God is moving you forward in your life, that might just be the whole point.  That might just be the mercy and compassion of God at work in your life. Stay awake.  Keep doing the work.  God will show Himself in the ways He knows to be most important in light of goals that are eternal, not temporal.  Those are not often the most dramatic but they are the most transformative.