I’m so excited that a number of people (even a few with whom I am not related!) have decided to join me in reading Celebration of Discipline. I also have a few friends who are currently reading this book in small groups (merely by coincidence, if you believe in such things), and I hope they will check in and maybe share some thoughts too. I have never read anything that so systematically addresses spiritual disciplines, and even though we are only on the second discipline, I’m already reassessing some things.
Foster focuses mainly on intercessory prayer, and I think it is important to limit ourselves a bit given the topic is simply inexhaustible. So what I’d like to discuss is the following question: what did you find most thought-provoking in this chapter? In other words, what has really stretched your thinking about prayer?
For me it was a great and needed reminder that prayer changes the course of human events. We cannot understand how exactly this change occurs, and we don’t need to. At least initially, we just need to accept it. Because until we believe that prayer makes a tangible, objective difference, we cannot pray with power. Once we start praying we can see results, and the how question becomes less a curiosity. I mean, in a sense, who cares how it works? I have no understanding of electricity. I just know when I flip the switch the light comes on. And that mystery, created by human hands, doesn’t bother me a bit. The divine mystery of determinative prayer should bother me even less.
Last month I blogged that the ultimate purpose of prayer is to align our will with the will of our Heavenly Father. At first glance that may seem to contradict the above paragraph, but if you look closely, it does not. The pivotal point, the point that I am so thankful Foster reminded me of, is that our Heavenly Father’s will is actually fluid. Foster writes that the Bible “speaks of God constantly changing his mind in accord with his unchanging love.” I think perfect alignment is usually struck by us doing most of the realigning, but amazingly, almost unfathomably, God’s will is subject to change too. A corollary is that neither Jesus nor His disciples prayed with my trusty proviso, “if it’s Your will.” And that makes sense to me now, because when we really know God we aren’t going to pray for things that would be outside His will, as defined merely by His character. But quite honestly, the idea of letting go of “if it’s Your will” is almost frightening to me. Maybe that reveals how “half-hoping” some of my prayers have been.
So what does all this mean for us? It means we have a daunting responsibility to pray. May we rise up and pray believing prayers for others this week.
And I know some of you probably got something totally different out of this chapter, and I cannot wait to hear about it.