Praying in two ways
Praying in two ways
Theological educators have a tendency to relate their prayer life to their job, and this is understandable.
We often spend our individual prayer time in our study with the tools of our trade around us and planning the tasks of the day. And anyway, our job is our calling and a large part of our discipleship. It tends to suck in much of the rest of our life including our prayer. It may however be better to think of our prayer life as teachers as having two centres, like an ellipse which revolves around twin foci to create one whole figure;
- For the work
Petitionary prayer for the task and the day is invited by our Father. Often planning the day quietly in His presence takes place as a great request that we will be useful to Him and our students that day. It is a sign of dependence when we pray in this way, an acknowledgement that it is ministry, spiritual work and we cannot achieve student transformation on our own. It is also part of every ministry that the minister prays for those he ministers to and so holding up our students before God is all part of the job.
- Not for the work
And yet we are not just theological educators, we are God’s children first and this relationship can and should stand on its own regardless of our work. We are also often husbands, wives, parents and have a multi-various life before God. Yet even for our work, to create, sustain and grow something between us and God, a relationship into which we can invite our students is fundamental to our task. There has to be an internal fire tended (to use Nouwen’s phrase) if we are to spiritually warm our students. We cannot speak simply academically about spiritual formation. Surely this is the more fundamental focus of the two.
So, leaving the study for a walk in new surroundings while you pray, reading yourself into an incident with Jesus in the gospels, using an old prayer from a godly person of church history, enjoying a thought or memory in the presence of God, picking up a book by a trusted devotional writer, thinking on an attribute of God; we can learn our own ways of re-focussing on God himself.
Now, at this point I am very conscious of writing like a lecturer, making distinctions and sub-headings as if we understand issues by cutting them up into pieces. Prayer is complicated and mysterious and how often these two elements blend into one.
But maybe pulling them apart for a short while has been useful to a few readers.