Balancing the Practice of Prayer
This morning I am troubled by the political nature of the church. Its seems that she is content in isolation, most often quite removed from public life until some secular event occurs that hinders her perceived position and freedoms. Whether it is abortion, stem cell research, or prayer at public meetings; she then explodes in a crisis mode with pickets and marches, as if this nation were a theocracy. This kind of “how dare you” response then sends political shock waves because of the numbers of people, though now in weekly decline, that still attend church.
The current dilemma facing our own community, possibly a test case for our nation, is prayer in public chambers. The challenge is not prayer, for who can stop that, but rather, praying publicly in the halls of our municipalities in the name of any one deity. In the churches’ defense, and of serious interest to me is the obvious aversion that appears solely around the name of Jesus. In fact, the “belief system” whose radical element first attacked our homeland often proclaims Allahu (Allah in Arabic) Akbar throughout their prayers without challenge. That alone speaks volumes to me regarding the truth held in the Name of Christ, to whom my own life is surrendered!
However, this morning as I read from II Chronicles 14:14 NIV, I saw what so many unbelievers may find offensive in the Canon of scriptures, the ravaging and warring that seems at times condoned by God because it is recorded in the chronicles of biblical history. I question whether at times the church also uses this once condoned barbaric nature of its fallen race, to justify its own wars and political antics when attempting to take back lost freedoms? Could the Canon when read apart from the reflection of God in Christ lead us to err? I must confess that something of my childhood learning, obviously held deep within my psyche, seems troubled by the fact that I would even go where I just went. To many, heresy would be implied?
Really, do we have a right to demand our way, as opposed to modeling the Christ who often went away to pray, and then demonstrated publically the love and power of God; as opposed to the religious leaders of the same day who prayed long prayers publically, demanding their rights of political rulers, then crucified the Christ when He crossed the laws of their Theocracy?
“Prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. There God’s Spirit dwells” (Christ in Us) “and there the great encounter takes place. There heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, within us.” “It is the mystery that the heart, which is the center of our being, is transformed by God into his own heart, a heart large enough to embrace the entire universe. Through prayer we can carry in our heart all human pain and sorrow, all conflicts and agonies, all torture and war, all hunger, loneliness and misery, not because of some great psychological or emotional capacity, but because God’s heart has become one with ours.” -Nouwen
“When you pray, enter your closet and shut the door…”- Jesus
Henri Nouwen, “The Way of the Heart” (Ballantine Books, NY,1981). P.74, 86.