“Friendship,” writes sociologist Pauline Johnson, “has strong advocates to be the paradigm through contemporary intimacies can best make sense of their value.” She adds, “Friendships can mean everything to us.”
Just think of what it means when spiritual friends desire to share God’s friendship!
First and foremost, “deep prayer” in my immediate context here, means that a man and a woman share a desire to know God as friend is more fundamental than a desire for sex. Yes, Sarah Coakley gets full credit for leading me there.
For post-Freud Christians, “deep prayer” means, among other things, the practice where a man and a woman can desire to be fully present with one another in the presence of God. Have you had the opportunity to notice what theologians, spiritual directors, therapists, sociologists and many others are saying about the immediate presence of God these days?
This is a profound shift in orientation for contemporary post-Freudian evangelicals who thought Freud (i.e. sex) was at the heart of the sexual purity culture—and human desire. For us hetero Freudian Christians, desire pointed all roads to sex.
This why evangelical theologians and pastors could not imagine a man and a woman intimately praying together. Instead of them seeking out the presence of a big G, the big S was always lurking within the unconscious seeking to seize their desire at any moment.
You see, what did I tell you? Here’s a test for you to see how immersed you are in Christian Freudian fundamentalism. Can you separate “hot” from sex when think about a Christian man and woman desiring God’s presence by praying?
What about God’s immediate presence in a burning bush before Moses? What about God’s social presence as a pillar of fire at night leading Israel? Or John the Baptist pointing us to the fact that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire? What about the fire that burned in the disciple’s hearts in the immediate presence of the resurrected Christ on the road to Emmaus? What about Spirit descending on the disciples with tongues of fire?
“We talk of ardent desire, warm emotion, enthusiasm’s glow and fire; and when we speak of God’s being within us as fire,
we mean that he will produce in us a strong and constant affection to himself.”
Something happened to me as I continued to pray with and for my female friends during the last decade. The Ulanovs come closest to describing it:
“We may discover we want more than we thought we dared. In the secret space of prayer, we may reveal to ourselves how much we want truth, beauty, love…We may discover desires we did not know about or knew only dimly, desires that if followed would take us far off the path we have so carefully constructed…Prayer is the place where we sort out our desires and where we are ourselves sorted out by desires we choose to follow…Desire leads to more desire. Prayer articulates our longing for a fullness of being, our reaching out of the mind for what is beyond it, and helps us find and love God and grow with our love.”
What if deep prayer between a man and woman as spiritual friends embodied their burning love for God’s presence? What if we shared a burning desire to be fully present to God’s presence?
“To be drawn by God means that we are liberated by our desires rather than from our desires.”