Benediction Online

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Invisible Powertool

Genesis 18:20-32

One of the things I haven’t been able to do very easily since I hurt my shoulder is to use a screwdriver. So I am very grateful to whoever came up with the concept of power tools! It takes far less effort to get a screw in the wall using a power drill.

I think our approach to prayer is often rather like trying to use a screwdriver when you have a weak shoulder. You put it off because it’s going to be difficult, but then you think you really should get it done, but when you try it’s all rather unfocused and tiring because you keep slipping and you can’t seem to get any traction.

Quite a different experience from Abraham’s. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, was living in Sodom with his family. Abraham was determined to stop God destroying his relatives and any other people who were living in alignment with God’s will. So Abraham persisted until he had God’s word that he would not destroy the cities if even ten righteous people could be found there.

Some of us will have a hard time relating to this story, as it presents God as an external force – someone out there who can, and does, destroy cities on a whim, or who can choose not to if asked persuasively enough. That view of God becomes problematic for us when we try to hold as true both that (1) God is love and that (2) suffering happens. It’s made even worse when we have stories which depict God causing destruction and killing those he is meant to love.

It is often easier for us to think about God as the creative force in the universe – that which keeps pulling us forward - the energy that moves atoms and subatomic particles – the movement that is the expansion of the cosmos – that which makes one plant a rose and another a daffodil – the light within. But if God is within, then to whom do we pray?

Trying to decide whether God is inside us and inside creation or whether God is a transcendent being quite separate from Creation is like asking whether light is a particle or a wave – the answer is “yes”. God is light, and God is the energy within and God is a transcendent, radically free Being who brought us into being, loves us intensely and is thrilled when we pray.

So how do we change our prayer life from being a fumble with a screwdriver to an invisible power tool?

I think the secret lies in one word: intention. Jesus says “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find” but you have to do the asking, you have to do the searching. You have to have the intention.

Sometimes we do something without intending to and it works out well. Other times, not so much. But when we do something with intention then we summon our energies, we marshal our resources; we focus on it with the intention of making it happen. We engage our wills. When two or three or more people get together and decide to make something happen, when they align their wills in a common purpose, they are often successful. When two or three people get together and align their wills with divine will and intention then miracles happen.

That is I think a more useful way of thinking about Jesus’ teaching about persistence. God is not a recalcitrant parent who withholds things from his children until they say the magic word the right number of times. God is not an ATM which requires that you remember the code and enter it correctly, and that you have sufficient funds to start with. God’s love is freely available, God’s abundance is not dependent on our saying the right words or repeating our prayers ad nauseam. But when our intention is aligned with God’s intention, things happen.

In response to the disciple’s request that Jesus teach them how to pray he gives them a short version of the prayer that we use as our family prayer,
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial."

“Father” is a term of intimacy and also honor. Many people find it an uncomfortable way to address God, but what’s important is to find a way that helps us to remember that God is as close as our breath and yet also the Creator of the universe. Aligning with the divine requires us to have an understanding, a lived experience of God as both present and beyond our comprehension The movement here is first to praise God “Hallowed be your name” and then to align ourselves with God’s will, “thy kingdom come.” Only then do we turn to the things which we most need – our daily bread and forgiveness.

It seems to me that praise and thanksgiving are the very energy of the universe. Just think for a moment how good it feels when someone appreciates you or thanks you. It gives you energy. I don’t for a moment think that God has a bruised ego which needs constant stroking. Rather, praise and thanksgiving generate joy and together form the creative energy of the ever-moving ever-growing Trinity. When we praise God it takes our attention away from ourselves and puts it where it belongs; on the reign of God.

Sometimes I hear people saying “How lucky I am” thinking that they are praising God, when in fact they are making a statement about themselves. When we praise and thank God we are turning our attention away from ourselves and instead focusing on the sources of our abundance – the Mother-Father-Creator God.

Once our attention is focused on God then we can know more profoundly the movement of the Spirit and we can align ourselves with that movement as we pray. As we bring the focus of our own intention to furthering the reign of God then we are aligning with Spirit and suddenly it is not our will alone but our will in co-creation with the great creative force. The juice is turned on and our prayer becomes an invisible power tool.

So if you want to experiment with this, here are the steps again:
Hallowed be your name, heaven and earth are full of your glory, hosanna in the highest
Your kingdom come; may the whole cosmos be brought into full and glorious relationship with you

Then - not because you’ve recited a magic formula, but because you have brought your intention into alignment with Spirit – you can focus on that which you are bringing to God. Remembering of course that prayer is not a passive thing; you are called to be part of the change you want to see happen. As we ask for forgiveness so too we are asked to forgive.

The kingdom of God starts at home. But it’s much easier with a good power tool!


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