The Power of Prayer

We ran into a beautiful young woman last night that we've had the opportunity to talk to a few times before. She was very friendly, and willing to engage in conversation for a while. But what really stood out to me was when I offered to pray for her. 

She got this sly smile on her face and told us that while she didn't necessarily MIND prayer, but the last time she let us pray for her - she got a lot of thing she wanted, but she also got a lot of answers to prayer in ways that she didn't want. 

This got me thinking about my own prayer life. My own relationship with God. How often do I dumb down my own prayer life because I am afraid of being bold enough to ask God for things. I think this plays out in two ways:

First, because I am afraid I won't get what I ask for. I think this will be a reflection on my stupidity to ask in the first place or my unbelief in being able to bring it to fruition. So I just avoid it. If I am not specific in my prayers - then I don't have to deal with disappointment. I avoid praying for healing. For vision. For clarity. Because when I don't get these things - It is less disappointing when I haven't specifically asked for them.

Secondly, I am afraid of how God will bring about the answer to my prayers. If I ask for greater faith - what sort of struggles will I have to go through? If I pray for humility how is He going to bring that about? If I pray for an understanding of God's great love for me - not seeing my worth through the eyes of others - what sort of situations will I go through to truly grasp and understand that?

So I could totally understand why this beautiful young woman didn't want prayer. Why she actually FEARED the bold prayers of those of us who believe in a God that deeply loves her and has an amazing plan for her life. A God that will never give up on her and desires to see her flourish in freedom and communion with Him. 

That's a frightening thing if you don't believe it for yourself yet. If you're afraid of how those prayers will be answered. 

While we were with her last night we said a prayer of blessing and protection for her children (that much she would allow!). But tonight - and in the weeks ahead - I will be praying for her - for her life and purpose - and I am excited to see how God begins to answer those prayers. And I'm excited for the next time I run into her and can check up on how she continues to be fearful of the power of prayer. Because prayer IS powerful. And we forget that a lot. It was nice to be reminded. 


Preaching and Justice

I just took my first Fuller Doctor of Ministry course. And it was....amazing. So very grateful for this week I got to spend in class with 15 other dedicated and innovative ministry leaders. Inspiring conversations, challenging my assumptions, and best of all - deeply refreshing to my spirit. A great week of personal renewal in the midst of academic challenge.

I am still very much debriefing and processing the week - so I thought I would share just a few tidbits for the week. Some quotes, some thoughts, some brief disjointed notes from lectures--I'd love your gut reactions and feedback. I'll try to write more as I process more and especially as I move into the writing of my paper. I am not giving you context on purpose - so if you choose to respond I can hear your interpretation of some of the things we talked about in class. Then maybe we'll flesh some of those things out (in context) later.

"smallness is the absolutely inverse of the God who made himself known in Jesus"

"Our life is lived in the context of the triune God. We are adopted into the perfect union of father, son and spirit. Our lives are in and with and for the father, son and spirit. In that context, we are nurtured back to health (human flourishing) – recast in the context in which we were meant live. We are given a fresh vision of human flourishing: perfect love, no rivalry, no alienation. As we live in that communion we are given a new home and new context in which to dwell."

"How do we hold on to a theological view of flourishing through the fog of our own social location (whether privilege, oppression or poverty)? We are searching for the righteous, just character of God. The giver of life. The giver of a vision of life. The deepest expression of what it means to be human. The church is a journey (agent) of humanizing of the world. We are seeking to be an agent of people becoming fully human in the way we were designed to be."

"Most of what I know and do has been learned from having done it badly in some way"

"In a world of violent aggressive justice – it makes it hard to love God. There are serious challenges to loving God when there is a world full of suffering that is intentional, evil and brutal and is taking place on a large scale. God allows this?!? So how do we love God in a fallen world of violent injustice?"

"Humanity is the same everywhere. We are around people right now that in their seeming civility have a great capacity for evil and oppression. It is not just 15 hours away."

"What is Justice? What is Injustice? At its core – it is about power. Power, from scripture, is an objectively good thing. God is powerful. Power is the capacity or ability to affect, to do something. But what we are aware of is that it is a capacity with tremendous dangers. It corrupts."

"Violence requires lies and deception. The oppressor is actually working from a position of weakness. If everyone could see what they were actually doing – they feel insecure in their position. The reason oppressors actually lie about what they are doing is because they are afraid – that they won’t actually be able to hold their position. You think the violent oppressor has no fears, but you begin to see the way they have to lie to keep doing what they’re doing – and in that they are exposing their fears. You can see what they are afraid of and what they don’t think they can stand by those lies."

"We need to learn the capacity to let ourselves be deeply impacted by things – yet not paralyzed. And to let God meet us in that. You create the space to invite suffering into the narrative of hope or to fence it out."

"The hardest thing for people to believe about the Christian faith? That God is good. Simply because they are in so much pain. What is God’s plan for making it believable that He is good when there is so much suffering in the world? We’re the plan! And God doesn’t have another plan."

"You need to have an emphasis on the intentionally on seeking refreshing joy. It is not sustainable to serve endlessly in the darkness and in the sorrow and in the grief without times of getting out of it and running and finding and spending times with beauty and laughter and joy and goodness so you are refreshed to return to it."

"As a well-educated white man, the things I want to call wise are because they are readily available to me.  It is “wise” to have AAA, but really it is sociological. The wisdom I teach needs to be much more than my sociology, it needs to be the gospel. How do we break out of that? What happens in the new humanity is that slave and free, man and woman are all together and we all pursue the wisdom of God – it can’t just be the social circumstances I look at – in our diversity we labor and look together. We bring this across lines I find hostile, awkward, inconvenient and difficult."

I know these are disjointed thoughts (and too many of them!) But there were so many more I didn't even put on here. I am so excited to process in the weeks and months ahead. And I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on God's heart for justice - and how that plays our in your local context, ministry or congregation. 

I was so encouraged coming out of this week by the discussions - and by the men (I was the only woman taking the class!) who were excited to bring this foundation and passion for justice back to their congregations. To get involved with ministries like After Hours - to see what they could do to cultivate their hearts of their congregants to be more aligned with the heart and passions of Christ. It was a beautiful thing to witness and converse about for a week.