in pursuit of critical and compassionate living and thought. in surrender to courage & delight of Christ.
One of my favourite books of all-time is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. My favourite scene in the book is when Ender, a prodigé space battle commander in training, realizes that he can manipulate gravity and use it his advantage. Seeing the world in a completely new metaphysical way, he realizes that he has great influence over the shapes, forms, and movements of his external world and his survival strategies in the Game are no longer bound to these rules. It takes him some practice to be able to maneuver his body according to these new rules of space he didn’t know before, but as he does the possibilities of approaching his problems and forming his attacks from new angles is an exhilarating new focus. If only we could bend the rules of space and time, health and conflict, wounds that bind us and unspoken rules that stop us…if only our prayers didn’t have to be so square…
It is the quirky artist and crazy philosopher in me that will often sit mindfully in my ordinary spaces – the bus, the coffee shop, my walk to church – and imagine floating chairs and morphing shapes of suddenly fluid steel, the sky and the ground trading places, and ceiling flipped, and my legs sprinting faster than the birds in dance over evergreen branches, leaping with beautiful nonsensical efficiency. There is something spiritual in the cubist portraits of Picasso, the café landscapes of Rothko, and the rhythmic consistency of an immense Jackson Pollock painting…in some way they reflect a boundlessness, a fuzzy logic of sense and mess, a creative spirit that doesn’t play by the rules that arbitrarily obey…
But we are meant to live as though a God that is control of our world truly exists. As though the physical, social, political, and internally made-up laws of this world don’t have the final say. Why are our thoughts not so bold as to fully trust that a God Almighty is in control? That he can bend time and space around us?
This is faith: to trust in what we cannot yet see (Hebrews 11:1). This applies not just to things we can imagine that we do not see, or things we think are missing in this life that we wait for, but things that we cannot imagine, ways of doing things that we cannot conceive, ways in which our social and physical and political world bend around that us that defy our current gravity of social norms and physics. A new world is being created.
We must never forget this. What power is in the hand of our Almighty Friend!
I pray we strive for increasing boldness in our prayers. I pray we pray hard prayers – prayers for things we cannot imagine bearing. Prayers for ways in our world we could only dream for, and then add a request that He might answer them with unsearchable things, things we cannot even imagine as He promises (Jeremiah 33:3).
May I suggest that our prayers are not bold enough if we can describe what we pray for in human words, practices, and forms. The things we must pray in hope and faith for are those which are so great and unimagineable we do not even have words for them. These are prayers that will only ever be “on the tip of our tongue”. We must venture in prayer into requests and petitions and praises for those things that are hearts and minds can but search to understand. We must push our prayers from places of words to places of wordlessness. We must go where the Spirit carries on inside us like murmurings in our hearts that we join ourselves to, like wading into a stream. We must let the Spirit finish our sentences. When faith is courageous it cannot be understood, but rather, it forces us to stand in a place of hope, longing, lingering sensing of the Spirits invisible workings beneath our feet.
This is the world we go to in prayer – the world behind our world, and the world that is not yet formed here. It is the place of spiritual forces and victories. It is like when Moses entered a desert clearing amidst sand walls and thistle bushes to find one burning and be told “Remove your shoes! Where you stand is Holy Ground!” In a moment of the Spirit, the veil from this unassuming place he had passed many times before was lifted and the forceful Holy presence of the Spirit made him tremble. Awestruck in wonder and fear, his heart and mind must have repeated in astonishment “How could I not have known?!” And when the Spirit divided tonnes of waters of the Great Nile before him and gravity’s pride did his heart not say the same? And when his people prayed for water were their hearts not humbled when rivers came from a rock? Did their hearts not gain faith and say, But of course! Of course. Our God does not abide by our world’s laws. And he need not obey them to answer our prayers. May I suggest that our prayers are not bold enough if they reflect a God constricted by our present world? For a God such as ours, are prayers like this not the mere ‘mustard seeds’ of faith?
Such prayers are not impressive to our God. Rather, we must pray in view of a God who can be nothing less than impressive to us. May I suggest that our prayers are not near bold enough unless what we pray for is something we cannot possibly imagine happening if God were not in it? We must enlist our imaginations to the front-lines of our prayers, and then pray beyond them. May we pray in colours that have not yet been named.
Why do we bother trying to understand prayer? We cannot understand prayer any more than we can understand the mind of God. Why do we only pray prayers that can be understood? Where is our trust? The gates to approach the Lord of Space and Time and bottomless Good have been tied open, the road before him paved flat, and the space before him protected with the proclamation that All Are Welcome. Why do we not throw caution to the wind of the Spirit, run through these gates with prayers like banners of a New World like childhood drawings that look nothing like the real things but have every colour of faith that they can be understood?
Why do we not pray from the wisdom that fully knows our God does not make sense? That YAWHEH is God who found it necessary to create unnecessary beauty, and ridiculous insurmountable terrain to make us wonder, and a world from nothing? That He has not stopped making this world?
Oh that we might dare to pray!