I taught a class today on relational prayer. I said relational prayer is a call out of the solitary confinement of evangelical spirituality. We have scores of books by popular Christian authors on the value, benefit, and struggle of private prayer and solitude. There are so few books on "relational prayer." While most books on evangelical spirituality and the value of private prayer focus on Jesus getting away from the crowd to get alone to pray, hardly any books focus on John 1:1 which, perhaps may be one of the greatest verses on communion and conversation in the Bible. From all eternity, before time began Jesus was with the Father. And that is where we are going: the communion of God and the commuion of saints. There is some use and blessing in private prayer. But modern evangelicalism has promoted, advertised, celebrated, cherished, and proclaimed with great wisdom that private prayer is essential to your identity before God in spirituality.
Rarely, you will ever hear the counsel, that you need to delve into the discipline and rhythm of relational prayer. Praying with and for others is almost viewed as an extra value or benefit in addition to, or on top of, your hectic schedule and the chief cornerstone of evangelical spirituality: private prayer.
I encouraged everyone to consider the possibility and practice of relational prayer as a pulsating, rich, communal, spiritual discipline that can help us escape the solitary confinement of evangelical spirituality. I wasn't just simply referring to prayer here and there, although there is value in that. But to consider the possibility of even daily relational prayer as a possibility of rich communion: emails, Im-ing, and cell phones make intentional relational prayer a rich possibility even though you maybe separated by suburbs, states, or even oceans.
1. We never outgrow our own weakness or vulnerability.
One of my points is that we never go beyond our own weakness and vulnerability. Therefore, we are always to faced to some degree, "Lord, I don't even know how to pray for this person right now."
2. We are to enter into the other's vulnerability.
Listen for their vulnerability: their ambivalence, their loss, their rejection, their betrayal, their sense of doubting God's provision, etc.
“Healing prayer doesn’t push suffering off to the side, where it can be safely ignored. Instead, in healing prayer we enter the scene of our tragedies with profound particularity. Healing prayer allows us to name the scene of shame in detail.” Dan Allender
Those vulnerabilities are pointing to bigger issues and questions:
Is God good?
Is God just?
Is God going to be there for me?
Does God fiercely love me--does he accept me for who I really am now?
We want to pray into those vulnerabilities. We don't want to sidestep those vulnerabilities--the pain, the loss, the fear, the anxiety. We want to name it. We want to identify it. We want to pray into the heart of the questions. We are not offering a "quick-fix" in the discipline of relational prayer: we are offering presence, we are offering "with-ness," we are by identifying those vulnerabilities our support in the midst of those vulnerabilities.
3. Praying the Gospel Story in relational prayer.
The Gospel is where the ultimacy of relational prayer rests.
"Anything less than prayer fails to deal with either the ultimacy of the desires or the complexity of the difficulties….In prayer the desires are not talked about, they are expressed to God. In prayer the difficulties are not analyzed and studied, they are worked through with God.” Eugene Peterson
“The actual details of intimate needs and relational realities become the stuff of prayer.” Eugene Peterson
We need to escape the solitary confinement of evangelical, white middle class spirituality.
Praying the intimacy of the Gospel story into the other's story: rich, rich, communion.