Liturgy for ordinary radicals…
Hold that thought.
Prayer is not what makes us Christian. In fact, just about every religion I’ve studied includes some form of ‘prayer’. I suspect a case could be made to show that even atheists pray if only to themselves through self-talk.
Unfortunately for most Protestant Evangelical Christians who think they have a decent prayer life, prayer usually amounts to little more than listing a series of things and people we wish God to do something about. At least, that’s what I hear when praying with others in public.
While God certainly encourages us to come to him with anything, I daresay laundry list prayers set us up to treat him as though he is a vending machine or some kind of benevolent grandpa who “wants good things for us”. Good, of course, gets defined as pleasant things or circumstances working out the way we think they should.
Just yesterday some friends of ours said goodbye to their twenty something daughter who died of stomach cancer. For them, God is neither a benevolent grandpa, or a vending machine. Nor is he a distant clock maker to whom they have have limited access or is mildly interested in their fate. For this family, who has suffered for some time and now lost, God is close, personal, deeply, and intimately involved in their sorrow. Yet, he chose to call their daughter home. God answered their prayer – not as we may be tempted to conclude (He said “no”). He answered by wooing them into something more radical than they ever imagined. He brought them into a grief few know, much less traverse. In this misnamed tragedy, God invited scores of prayer warriors into more. More faith. More trust. More dogged determination to believe God is good when circumstances seem to indicate the contrary.
This is the kind of life circumstance that separates those who pray from those who wish. Common prayer for ordinary radicals is a way of life. This does not mean that prayer is somehow saying something to God continually, or even consciously thinking about him throughout the day. Radical way of life praying is active as much as it spends time on its knees.
The community that surrounds our friends have prayed more than words and heart groans. They sat with this young lady as cancer slowly took her life. They brought food; they aided in making decisions and preparations for what will come next. This community invested in these hurting lives. The way they lived as a community was prayer as much as it was answered prayer.
Ordinary radicals communicate with God and they communicate for God.
True liturgical words don’t stay in the book. They are embodied and lived. This kind of liturgy is what makes prayer radical.
“Our Father…”, “O God…”, “O gracious Light…”, now become catapults into the day rather than bulwarks to hide behind. “My soul magnifies the Lord…” is best seen in holding the frail hand of a dying young woman or grieving father and mother. “I believe in God, the Father almighty…” holds real power in the actions of ordinary radicals.
God help me become more common in my praying…