Friday, January 7, 2011

today's irreverent prayer

I have made a habit of posting a prayer on my facebook profile each morning. I have been doing this since September 2009.

Today’s prayer was, admittedly, a bit irreverent. It was this:

Today's prayer is dialogic. Find a partner and have some fun.

Me: "Can I face the future with courage?"
God: "Are you freakin' kiddin' me? With my Spirit in you? Yes, you can!"

This prayer happened to be posted on another facebook wall this morning that contains followers who do not know me. Well…someone immediately commented on it. She said:

“Really? I don’t think God would use the word ‘freakin’.”

Her comment got me to thinking: “Why did I write that?”

Here is an open-letter response to her comment.

Dear T---:

Hello, my name is Troy. I post daily prayers on my personal profile. I take full responsibility for today’s prayer appearing on this profile and apologize if it causes anyone offense. Here’s why I wrote it:

Prayer often involves tension. On the one hand, in prayer we approach a high and holy God whose name YHWH we dare not even write in full. On the other hand, in prayer we address a God that went through puberty in Nazareth and called himself Joshua. Today’s prayer merely reflects one side of that tension, but I apologize if it proved a stumbling block to anyone.

Not every prayer I write is like today’s prayer, but all of them, taken collectively, will vacillate between familiarity with a God that came near and reverence for a God who’s transcendent. My hope is that each prayer can strike a good balance between the two, but I’m not perfect and nor are my prayers, so forgive me if my inability to strike a balance with every prayer proves frustrating to you.

That said, I am happy God doesn’t ask me to make a perfect prayer before I agree to pray. And, thanks to his grace, he is quite content to accept my imperfect prayers just as they are.

For my part, I do agree with you. I grow weary of current trends that seem to merely dress God down. It’s just that I can’t shake the notion that if Joshua from Melrose, Wisconsin were with me today, he might say something like “freakin”. I can’t be sure of that, but that’s where my imagination took me, all the same. It’s the same reason I wrote this about Jesus having an erection. And, in fact, it’s why I have devoted my life to mission.

I also acknowledge that today’s prayer might be just another example of our tendency to fashion God in our own image. If that is so, I pray God forgives me. I went ahead and prayed that way, however, because God’s humanity was the very thing that proved a stumbling block for those who lived during Jesus’ time. If anything, God became too human for the Pharisees’ liking. When we truly encounter the God of the gospels today, might he also appear too human to us? Such a notion may feel heretical to us. I sincerely hope it isn’t. But, perhaps, a sense of scandal may be the very thing that assures us we are following the human Jesus of the gospels.

At any rate, in prayer we are also free to be honest and this prayer is, simply, honest. It is more like a regular dirty window in my home than a clean, stained glass panel in a cathedral. I just hope God hears prayer even though I’m not sitting in a pew. Today’s prayer reflects that.

Thanks for understanding and thanks for your patience with me!

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