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Creative Prayer: The basic practice of the kingdom of God

Lynne Baab • Thursday August 29 2019

Creative Prayer: The basic practice of the kingdom of God

As Christians who receive the kingdom of God, try to live in it, and long for more of it, we engage in a lot of different spiritual practices, ways of drawing near to the God of the kingdom. If someone asked you which spiritual practice is most central to God’s kingdom, how would you reply? In a recent sermon at my church, the preacher identified prayer as the basic practice of the kingdom of God.

The preacher was Rev Dr Mike Langford, Associate Professor of Theology, Discipleship and Ministry at Seattle Pacific University. Mike gave four ways that prayer images God’s kingdom, which I’ll describe below.

First I want to reflect on this notion of the centrality of prayer in God’s kingdom. The Bible is also central, because that’s where we learn about the God to whom we pray. But without prayer accompanying Bible study, it becomes purely cognitive, dry and lifeless.

Also central is a life of obedience and service, modeled after Jesus. But without prayer, obedience and service become exercises in ego, pride, self-satisfaction and self-justification.

This is the 28th and last post in a series on creative prayer, and in one sense “creative prayer” is the wrong title for this post. No one who longs to draw near to God should feel any pressure to be creative. “Thank you” and “help me,” the two most basic prayers, are just as pleasing in God’s eyes as the more unusual and creative kinds of prayers I’ve been writing about. What matters is praying, whatever form it takes.

But I still want to argue that creativity in prayer matters. Creativity helps us pray in new ways and for new areas of life. Creativity helps us stay motivated to pray. It relieves boredom in prayer. Without some degree of creativity in prayer, most of us pray less and less.

Mike Langford mentioned three ways prayer images the kingdom of God:

1. Intimacy. We long for intimacy yet sometimes we are afraid of it and resist it. Prayer helps us step toward God, over and over, despite our reservations. Prayer helps us feel God’s nearness. Not always! Sometimes when we pray God feels far away. But over time, prayer helps us experience the God who enfolds us, protects us and loves us.

2. Authenticity. Our culture encourages us to posture and create online selves that look good, but we long to be known and loved for who we are. In prayer, we can approach God honestly and with our whole selves. The Psalms model a profound authenticity in prayer. (Two recent posts on praying with the Psalms are here and here.)  

3. Receptivity. All the good gifts of our lives – including food, housing, relationships, safety, peace, joy, and meaning – come from the hands of a loving God. When we thank God, we acknowledge our dependence on God. Prayer also puts us in a position to receive more subtle gifts from God: discernment for how to live, guidance for decisions, and comfort in challenging times. Prayer also helps us receive power from God to live faithfully.

I’ll close this series on prayer with one of my all time favorite prayers, attributed to Richard of Chichester in the 13th century and brought into the twentieth century in the musical Godspell:

     Day by day, day by day,
     O, dear Lord, three things I pray:
     to see thee more clearly,
     love thee more dearly,
     follow thee more nearly, day by day.

Next week: an unexpected fast. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love it when I get new subscribers for this blog. Sign up below (for cellphones) or in the right hand column (for laptops).

Previous posts in this series:

Creative prayer with colors
The psalms and music
Walking and memorizing psalms
Creative prayer nurtures stopping
Creative prayer as remembering truth
Apples and wings
Learning from mindfulness meditation
Returning prayer
Relinquishing and welcoming
Prayer cards
Pressing pause
Creative prayer with Jeremiah
Submitting and entreating
Creative prayer: Seasons
Creative prayer without codependency
Creative prayer in a foreign language
Creative prayer while walking
Creative prayer using the imagination
Joy spot sightings
Creative prayer in a hospitable spirit
Creative prayer using our hands
Prompts for prayer
More prayer prompts
Creative prayer for creation care
Creative prayer: Art as symbol and metaphor
Creative prayer

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