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Thursday, July 09, 2009
Praying the Story in Worship
I once wrote a book called Praying the Story, yet I speak of it so little here. I recalled this material in a worship service just the other day. As the pray-er stood to pray, the Spirit took us somewhere. He remembered segments of the biblical story in ways that convinced me he had been there. These stories lived in his heart and mind, becoming his very own memory. He prayed them in first person, referencing "us" instead of them. Amazing-- the Spirit transported me there too. It went something like this,

"Lord God, you saw us there at the waters edge. You saw the awful armies of Pharaoh breathing down our necks. The only way through was an impossible way. But you reminded us that nothing is impossible with God. You made a way through the sea. And you know us Lord, that we still find ourselves in that spot today, between dying and death. We can't make the house payment. Pharaoh is gaining on us. We can't beat the cancer. The waters cry doom. (insert any variety of suffering circumstances here). But you are a God of the impossible. We say it with Sarah. We shout it with Jeremiah. 'Nothing is impossible with you.'

We were there that awful night, watching your son on the ground as he cried out, 'Abba! Nothing is impossible with you.' Pharaoh of the Pharisees chased him. The waters of death mounted. And Jesus, we remember what you said. "Not my will but your will be done!" [[you see where this is headed]].

What do I learn from this way of praying? 1. To pray like this that story must become my own memory. 2. From the inside of this Story, we can see the living God-- far better than through a series of abstract qualities. 3. This way of praying isn't escapist, but rather it locates us squarely in the midst of our circumstances, identifies us deeply with those who have gone before and grants us the gift of standing in a place I call "Covenant Leverage."

I'll have to develop that idea in a future post, so for now-- what do you think about this? Make sense?

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posted by John David Walt | at 7/09/2009 09:13:00 PM



Blogger drew said...

"covenant leverage" is an amazing term. Maybe that should be your next book title :)

we should get together soon.

9:27 AM EDT  
Anonymous John D. Palmer said...

Lord I remember how you were with us at the waters edge. How you stood down the awful armies of Pharoah. You did the impossible that day. You showed us what you meant when you invited us into covenant. I don’t know how you did it but you opened up the waters of the Sea and made the ground dry so we could pass to the other side. As soon as we were all through and Pharoah’s army was in the middle. . . You CLOSED THE WATERS ON THEM!!!! The irony is that even though I have seen you in action, all of us here in this room KNOW, we KNOW how you deliver. . . I. . .we. . still find ourselves in this ridiculous spot between dying and death. I don’t have money to pay my taxes, others of us can’t keep a roof over our families heads. . .We feel like that day at the waters edge before you did what you did. We are stifled with fear and depression STILL! We are still standing there looking ahead and seeing nothing but an Ocean between us and safety all in the knowledge that YOU have never failed US.

Here now in this place in this time we join our voices with the voices of Sarah. . . with Jeremiah. . . .NOTHING is impossible for you!! We know you will deliver Lord, we know you do deliver, help our doubts, give us strength to raise our eyes and see those waters parted, give us courage to listen as Your Son cries out Abba! that our voices may echo this cry. Calm our fears so that we may utter with your Son “not my. . .our wills be done but Your will be done”

I tweeked it a bit. I think this is the way we are to pray. For all the reasons you say, but even more because when we have abstract prayers they reveal our messed up understanding of Where and who God is. It is bad theology and bad faith living. I'm always trying to emphasize this fact that God is not in the Past, God is here now. With us. Present now. And While God indeed does move through time however God so chooses being both in the present and the past and the future.(A mystery that I'm happy to embrace) The most vital understanding we can have is talking with God now. Today. Looking around the room trying to focus our eyes so that we see. Quieting down our space so we can hear. Opening our arms so we may be embraced NOW.

1:13 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday I watched a Mystery Play... the medieval way of re-telling the story. In combining the main events of the Biblical story (this particular version looked at Creation, the fall of Lucifer, the fall of man, the flood, the birth, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and the Last Judgment) with a modern way of re-telling it (setting it to rhyme and personalising it through local references), we re-lived the story and can pray through it...

2:30 AM EDT  
Blogger John David Walt said...

i like the mystery play idea--

and JDeP-- thanks for running with the prayer-- i liked your part better than mine.

12:28 PM EDT  

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