Christians are called to be in the world, but not of it. I think that we often acknowledge this as true (perhaps even
by putting a NotW sticker on our cars) but fail to recognize how hard
it is to follow Jesus as Lord without
caving in to the world’s way of thinking and doing… and thus slowly caving in
to the world’s way of being.
The obvious examples are ones like sexual behavior, or
greed, and so I’m not going to discuss those. Instead, I want to look at a more
subtle pressure from the world: on our prayer lives.
Because of my writing, speaking, and study, over the past
five years I’ve had the opportunity to pray and worship in a variety of
settings, in different Christian traditions and with different styles of prayer:
liturgical and structured, or extemporaneous; charismatic, or very low-key; low
church, high church; with a pastor, with a priest, or with fellow lay people;
in a beautiful church building, gathered in a community center, in a living
room, or sitting on lawn chairs outdoors.
I’ve learned a great deal about prayer from all of this.
I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone.
I’ve helped push other people out of their comfort zones.
And here’s something of what I’ve learned.
People who have a living, vibrant relationship with the
Triune God are people who have living, vibrant prayer lives. People who truly
know Jesus and are committed to following him on the way of the Cross pray in a
different way than those who are just tagging along with Jesus without a
radical commitment to following him.
Style of prayer is
absolutely irrelevant to the level of seriousness. Depending on a person’s
personality and circumstances, the best way to interact with God in prayer might
be through praying the Daily Office using the Anglican Book of Common Prayer,
or having a daily quiet time; it might be through blasting praise songs or
walking in silence. What matters is taking Jesus seriously; taking the work of
prayer seriously; immersing oneself in Holy Scripture and taking God’s Word
seriously; this is what cuts across the lines of church tradition and personal
I repeated “taking it seriously” for a reason. Because another
thing I’ve learned from seeing all these different prayer styles and worship
traditions is this: no matter what style of prayer you use, the world will
still press in and try to distract you from the work of prayer.
Here’s what the world says – at least a few of the whispers
I’ve heard, and had to deal with: