“Biblical prayer is impertinent, persistent, shameless, indecorous. It is more like haggling in an outdoor bazaar than the polite monolougues of the church.”
I recently read the quote above....talk about some serious food for thought! Prayer is such a mysterious thing to me. I know that it is beautiful in that it is a way for God to intertwine intimately with our lives, but how it does that I do not at all understand. I was just invited to join a book club by a friend from church. Our first book since I joined was a Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey. I have read Yancey’s books before and enjoyed them, though this one hadn’t made it to my to-read list yet. It is pretty lengthy and written mostly in the style of a researched magazine article, as Yancey was a journalist before he was an author. He writes from the very humble position of having written other books on suffering and understanding where God is in the painful parts of life. Since writing those books he has heard from multitudes of people thanking him for his thoughts and lamenting the tragedies of life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though I am not sure it was the book’s extraordinariness, or more it being just the right book at the right time for me. Nevertheless, it caused me to think and process through ideas I have struggled with for years. Yancey addresses the really tough questions like why God answers some prayer and not others, if prayer really affects the outcomes of things, and why should we even bother praying. He doesn’t give pat answers, but draws great attention to the different perspectives and the mystery of it all. He addresses Biblical prayer and how it is by no means formulaic, but it is always passionate and even sometimes irreverent. It is above all a conversation between a loving parent and a child bumbling through life.
Overall, I feel like reading the book acted as an informal month-long prayer, or rather communication session, for God and me. While I now see more of the mystery of prayer, I see that need not discourage me from it, because with that mystery also comes freedom. So, that being said, here are a couple of favorite quotes...
“I understand prayer as partnership, a subtle interplay of human and divine that accomplishes God’s work on earth” P. 113.
“I used to spend a lot of energy asking God questions. Why must poverty persist in a rich country like the U.S.A? Why does one continent, Africa, absorb like a sponge so many of the world’s disasters? When will peace on earth ever arrive? Ultimately, I came to see these questions as God’s interrogations of us. Jesus made clear God’s will for the planet. What part am I playing to fulfill that will?” P. 274.
“When I betray the love and grace God has shown me, I fall back on the promise that Jesus prays for me -- as he did for Peter -- not that I would never face testing, nor ever fail, but that in the end I will allow God to use the testing and failure to mold me into someone more useful to the Kingdom, someone more like Jesus” P. 88.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on prayer, too...