Missional Prayer

6299495645This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on Missional Spirituality.  With this event, MennoNerds is exploring  Spirituality through an Anabaptist lens and what such spirituality means concerning participation in the mission of God.

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“Missional Prayer.” That’s my topic for today. And it seemed like a good topic weeks and weeks ago when I signed up for it. Plus it was one of the latest topics on the syncroblog schedule. So here we are. “Missional Prayer.” And now that I actually have to write about it, I realize that it is a rather odd phrase.

Some might even consider it an oxymoron. “Missional,” after all, generally makes us think of going out into the world, doing the will of God. “Prayer” makes us think of retreating to a quiet place and simply being with God. How can we go and retreat, do and be?

I think that is exactly the challenge of the faithful Christian life.

During my first round of seminary, I fell in love with the theology and practice of Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C.. They preach the Good News and they enact the Good News. They host Bible studies and soup kitchens, hold worship services and art shows. At the heart of their way of being in the world is a commitment to the Inward/Outward journey.

The longer I try to live as a follower of Jesus in this world, the more important this Inward/Outward journey becomes to me. As Christ-followers, we are called to go and retreat; to do and be. It is a balance, a dance between receiving spiritual sustenance and being the hands and feet of Christ in the world.

The mission and the prayer are both necessary for a life of faith; and they are not two separate actions or two distinct parts of one’s life. The inward and the outward, the prayer and the mission, nurture each other; they intertwine in ways that make the Christian life possible when it would otherwise be impossible. “Missional Prayer” is not an oxymoron. It is the opposite of an oxymoron . . . an oxygenius?

“Missional Prayer” is any way of being with God that allows us to better understand God’s work in the world and that empowers us to participate more deeply in that work.

Such prayer can involve praying for specific people. These prayers can deepen our sensitivities, open our eyes to needs beyond ourselves.

Such prayers can involve praying for God’s will in certain situations. These prayers can keep us watching for God’s presence in our world.

But more than offering up requests for people or for certain situations, missional prayer means receiving God’s word about the people and situations around us. It means receiving the power of the Holy Spirit to join with the work God is already doing.

If we understand prayer as a conversation with the Divine, then in missional prayer, we should be doing less talking and more listening.

There are, of course, all kinds of ways to listen to God. Many of them won’t look like prayer to anyone who happens to be watching. Many of them might not even feel like prayer to us at first–or they might feel like prayer but seem, somehow, like we are cheating.

But it is not cheating to take a walk in the woods–or in your neighborhood. It’s not cheating to linger in an art gallery–or get out your own art supplies. It’s not cheating to read good poetry or enjoy a good meal or watch a good movie or listen to good music. It’s not cheating to have a real conversation with a friend–or an enemy.

And it’s not cheating to read the Bible or to bow your head and close your eyes or to show up at church on Sunday morning.

All of these can be prayer or not prayer. Missional or not missional.

Missional prayer is not about what we do. It’s about what we notice God doing. And how our noticing then inspires what we do, what we say, who we are.

Missional prayer is not about the words, but when we feel like we need some words anyway, we can simply pray with Jesus: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done.” Amen.

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