Prayer is hot!
If you read most evangelical books on prayer, you rarely get this impression. That's because for many evangelicals prayer is a solo act. But as I have mentioned in the past on this blog, prayer intimacy and sexual intimacy have many parallels. In other words, prayer is a lot like sex. I had intended on writing this post this week. It somehow seems fitting that I should write it while in the midst of a messy spirituality series. One of my favorite quotes from Paul Wadell is "For Christians, intimacy begins not with sex but with prayer." Eugene Peterson is one of the few evangelicals who gets it. According to him, when we are speaking of intimacy, he writes, "When we develop and express our love to another person we are using the same words and actions and emotions that are also used to develop and express our love for God; and vice versa."
1. Like sex, praying for another may be an intense event involving the entire person.
This seems hard to believe if you if you have been modeled a "stodgy" or dry informational way of praying. But in one prayer time for another, one can step into a depth of intimacy that touches the very core of the person being prayed for. Prayer involves the whole person--body, soul and spirit. If you can pray shalom into another's "tingles for same-sex in my crotch" then, prayer affects our entire being.
2. Like sex, praying for another may involve a sweet openness towards the other that leaves us vulnerable and naked.
We're not physically naked in prayer. But as we open up to another our shame, our weakness, our struggles, our tenderness--our vulnerability--we reveal something significantly tender that we keep shielded from the rest of the world, acquaintances, and perhaps our family.
3. Like sex, since praying for another can touch the very core of a person's soul, it can be used to manipulate.
Our prayer energy, prayer motives, and prayer language can be used to manipulate those whom we pray for. If one prays with the full intention of intimate spiritual connection with the other, its intimacy can be used to manipulate the other just like sex--withdrawal, need, lust (physical and nonphysical), power, these are all unhealthy dynamics that can seep their way into same-sex and cross-sex intimate praying for one another. Without a doubt, this is the most powerful reason why the majority of Christian therapists can experience all kinds of counter-transference temptations when they consider praying with their client. This is also problematic with praying in tongues with someone.
4. Like sex, prayer can bond two souls in deep union.
This is where prayer can be (it may not in certain relationships) just as hot as sex. No, it doesn't get physically orgasmic. But there is a spiritual bond--joy, gentleness, kindness, surrender, peace, hunger, thirst, satisfaction, sense of release--in the presence of another that can be deeply experienced in the presence of another. When these spiritual realities fill the soul we are praying for, a deep union emerges from the bonding of the language of love expressed in prayer.
5. Like sex, prayer can be a detached, soulless act with someone you care about.
This could be easily related to 3 and could be manipulation. If you've experienced prayer intimacy with someone at the level of the previous point, then, kind of praying with another could be seen as going through the motions with no real concern for the relationship as a whole. You're just doing it, because the other wants you to.
6. Like sex, prayer can be something that you enter into with another person and never reach an estatic experience.
Contra current contemporary pop teaching on sex, good, faithful, intimate sex can happen in "ordinary" ways. This is hard to believe because our culture and some Christians see sex as something you must reach orgasmic heights every time--or that both must reach orgasm. But sex can be good if it is simply a shared experience of delight and goodness towards the other in the midst of everyday pressures. Same with prayer intimacy.
7. Like sex, ongoing prayer intimacy involves patience, kindness, intentional thoughtfulness, spontaneity, creativity, tender, and meaningful personal expressions.
In other words, in prayer there is a choice for soul-to-soul intimacy just like sex. Like ongoing sexual intimacy, this is no easy achievement. Like sex, a "quickie" prayer can mean something significant. I have prayed short but passionate prayers and have seen the breath of God in them. I have received meaningfully expressed, passionate short prayers and have received the extraordinary peace of God in and through the pray-er.
8. Unlike sex, whether you are married or single you may experience the depth of prayer intimacy in extraordinary oneness with someone you are not married to--appropriately!
This is where single people (especially single people with conservative Christian values who believe that sex outside of marriage is inappropriate and just plain wrong) are not "left out" of powerful intimate experience of oneness. This is related to point 4. In prayer intimacy there can be an experienced oneness of soul that is a sign of the age to come where we will not be given in marriage but experience the capacity and depth of love for one another including the other gender. In a context of nurtured trust, this oneness can be shared and experienced by spouses who are not married to each other or spouses and single persons.
9. Like sex, prayer intimacy involves an ongoing transformational relationship.
I maintain that we cannot enter into an ongoing prayer intimacy and not be changed. This has rich healing possibilities for those who are not experts in current psychodynamic theory, for those who are "unhealthy" by current contemporary therapeutic criteria, etc. There is no such thing as a "closed" relationship in a prayer intimacy between men, between women, and between men and women who are not married to each other, between husband and wife. Each of us are in the process of becoming the man or woman God has called us to be. We are never isolated ingrown units in an ongoing prayer intimacy with each other. This means past relational dysfunctions can be broken and healed in prayer or in prayer in context with wider relationships.
10. Like sex, a break in ongoing prayer intimacy is going to introduce a set of complex emotions.
If you really have experienced an ongoing prayer intimacy with another (same sex or opposite sex) be wise and gentle if you forsee the need to end the intimacy for a season.