A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Suspicions About Prayer

Once a month I get together with a really good group of friends (I am tempted to say spectacular or tremendous group of friends but they are likely to read this and I don’t want them thinking I am kissing up.)  We talk about life and faith and such.  The last time we got together, we talked about prayer and how God intervenes in the world.  In a follow-up email one of these friends said, "I just think it's something we know so little about, never hear really grappled with, is never free from cliches, is always a puzzle.  How can we know God is love and yet know so little about how God communicates with us?"  So, I was encouraged to write about prayer in this space.  This dimly rang some bells for me so I looked back at my old blogs to see if I had addressed this topic before.  Sure enough, my very first blog was about prayer.  And in that blog I confirmed the quote of my friend: I wimped out.  I didn't really grapple with it and I used a time honored cliche talking about prayer as mystery.  Not that this isn't true.  Prayer is a mystery.  There are few answers to questions about prayer.  We know we are called to do it.  We are promised it matters but that is about it.  So, that is where I left it nearly two years ago.  It is a mystery but I trust in the promised power of prayer. 

Not bad, but sort of wimpy.  I have never been one who can be satisfied by an answer of “it’s a mystery.”  What is the point of a mystery if I don’t try to solve it?  Even Nancy Drew teaches us better than that.  Tell me something is a mystery and I will not likely shrug my shoulders and say, “Oh well, I guess that’s it then.”  I long to understand these things.  I ponder.  I think.  I wonder.  And I end up with suspicions.  Ever evolving and changing suspicions.  They are not beliefs but rather ideas and wonderings.  Yet they give me hope.

So, this time I will be more daring.  I will share with you some of my wonderings in case you too are a person discontent with a mystery, and nourished by enquiry.  My wonderings led me to some readings on quantum physics.  I am not a scientist.  I have little understanding of such things but I found a few authors who broke things down in ways I could almost begin to understand.  Here I found out many things are possible which I would have assumed were impossible: particles affecting each other over great distances, time not being all it is cracked up to be, and so on. I began to suspect God could be at 
work in the world in ways beyond our human comprehension.  This is not intended to be the cliche Lynn warned against in her most recent blog, “... the image of a patronizing God who assures us that someday all this pain and suffering will make sense in a bigger picture we can’t yet see.”  I don’t mean the icky way God talks to Job, implying us mere mortals are too far beneath God to comprehend so just shut up already.  I mean God could be at work in ways we don’t yet understand, probably never will understand in this life due to the complexities of the world and of God, but not magical ways defying the laws of the rest of the world.  Maybe it is more akin to the weather: as our knowledge advances we might be able to understand more about it but still be unable to predict it. 

My current suspicion is prayer is powerful. I suspect we can influence God or life in ways beyond our comprehension. Most often the prayers and God's interaction with the world continue on some level we do not detect.  But sometimes all the prayers and the way God is at work in the world and many other factors come together in a way such that we can hear God’s guidance or see miracles or detect God's presence or some such. This is what I suspect. 

I also sometimes suspect God is love and unity and is more like the ground we stand upon: present but not really doing anything but being. Depends on the day or the moment and my current level of cynicism.

Again these are my suspicions and my ponderings.  I am not saying I have it all figured out or received a message from God or anything.  I suspect many of us have some ways we have worked such things out in our minds but we don’t share because we don’t know it to be true.  Perhaps sharing such things would be more helpful than throwing out cliches which serve to shut down conversation.  Why is the Christian faith so resistant to exploration?  It is equivalent to scientists outlawing all hypothesis.  Just because a question is ultimately unanswerable doesn’t mean we should not ask it and explore the possibilities.  What are some of the possibilities about life, faith and God which you have pondered to answer the unanswerable?

by Sheri Ellwood

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