Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teach Us To Pray : Introduction

Jesus taught his disciples how they should pray. And if we, too, are disciples in the Way of Jesus, then we should give weight to his words: Jesus’ model is not merely one among many possible options, but the one we are to make our own. On the other hand, these words, recorded in Matthew 6:9-15 and Luke 11:1-4, are not a mantra: they provide the context for a conversation between God and God’s people. For that is what prayer is: a listening to what God wants to speak to us about, and a bringing to God our lives. And Jesus says that God wants us to bring our lives to him, to listen to him, in relation to six areas: six areas of interaction, beginning in conversation in the hidden place and moving into active involvement – God’s, and ours – in the publicly visible place. These six areas relate to God’s character, kingdom, provision, forgiveness, guidance, and deliverance. Over the following posts, I intend to unpack each of the six phrases a little.

Within the Rule of The Order of Mission – which is expressed in an iconic form using Lifeshapes* – ‘praying as a way of life’ is represented by the hexagon: each side of the shape recalling a phrase of the prayer. We seek to engage with this prayer in various ways. We might run through the familiar words, perhaps a number of times over, until we sense a check: and there we ask, is this the thing that God wants to speak to us about today, through his Holy Spirit; or the thing that is weighing on our spirit, which we need to bring before God and hear his voice address today? It may be one or the other, and as prayer is a conversation, the expression of a relationship, either is as valid a starting-point as the other. At other times, we might pray through the entire prayer on a Sunday, and then take each of the six phrases in turn and pray them through the rest of the week, Monday to Saturday.

* ‘Lifeshapes’ are a series of tools for discipleship – for helping us to follow Jesus, and to help others to follow Jesus. Recognising that we live in an iconic culture, where brand logos both carry and unlock significant volumes of experience for us – try it: how much information and experience does the Disney logo, or the Apple logo, or the M&S logo recall to your mind? Choose a logo and write a list – they make use of simple iconic shapes to carry and unlock biblical teaching to live by, with a focus on the life and ministry of Jesus. The beauty of iconic symbols is this: that, just as with every new Disney (etc.) release, the reservoir of knowledge their logo carries and unlocks expands; so with every new thing we learn about living as disciples, the reservoir of knowledge the Lifeshapes carries and unlocks for us also expands.

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