Prayer-hands

When you hear the phrase, missional prayer, what do you think it is?

What makes prayer missional or unmissional?

Here are a few thoughts I have. Firstly, as with David Augsburger and Richard Foster, I would say there are three dimensions to Christian spirituality: moving upwards in worship (God focus), moving inwards in confession (self focus), moving outwards in intercession (other focus). And I would say this three dimentional perspective necessarily leads to some related questions, which are: What is missional worship? What is missional confession? What is missional intercession? So to expand…

Prayers of worship. Prayer, when missional, begins with the recognition that our God is a missional God, a self sending God. Before we speak of God, we should listen to God, and the God who speaks through scripture is a sending (and sent) God. This is the God we worship. When our master taught us how to pray, he left no gap between “Our heavenly Father, holy is your name” and “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Neither should we. God is not passive, God is active.

Prayers of confession. Prayer, when missional, includes recognition that what is wrong with the world begins with us, with I. Changing the world begins with changing the self. Changing society begins with changing the church … and we are the church … so it begins with our own confession and inner transformation, as individuals and as a community. We cannot expect any missional success whilever the church, whilever we, remain introspective and arrogant.

Prayers of intercession. Prayer, when missional, includes recognition that God saved us whilst we were all enemies of God. Intercession should therefore include prayers for forgiveness of our enemies, that as we have come to know the ways of faith and love, so they would come to to know the ways of faith and love. Intercessory prayer, when missional, does not involve the demonization of enemies, whatever gods they worship. Demonization is of the devil.

So, what happens for you inside, reading this? Are you draw to it? Do you object violently? Are you left with questions or uneasy feelings? I would like to hear, even if you don’t normally comment.

4 thoughts on “Missional Prayer

  1. Good post Matt. I agree with all that you have said. I would probably have specifically included something about issues of justice/injustice in the world and in the church, but I guess that would come under the confession/intercession headings.

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  2. Tony, actually, I would say justice touches on all three dimensions. Prayers for justice should begin with with the recongnition that God is just, that God has a passion for justice, that God hates injustice, and that the one we worship has acted, is acting and will act for the restoration of justice through his Messiah. Then comes the confession of our own injustice and groaning for justice. Then comes surrender, Lord, use me, and Lord, empower me, and Lord, go before me.

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  3. Interesting stuff, Matt. I find a lot of similarity between the three dimensions of spirituality and prayer you list and my own understanding of my own relationship with my gods. Very interesting indeed.
    Another thing that I notice about your post is that there seems to be an underlying theme of dialogue running through your description of prayer. What I’m reading isn’t about sending prayers “out to God,” but a fuller engagement in dialogue, contemplation, and feedback. I’m reminded of an old comment — attributed to C.S. Lewis, I believe — that prayer is not about changing God but changing the one praying. It seems quite appropriate here.

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  4. Jarred, yes, as I understand it prayer is a conversation. It involves listening and being listened to. I sometimes begin my prayers with the words of the prophet Samuel, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Maybe it is not immediately apparent but I tend to write of “Christian meditation” and “listening prayer” almost interchangeably, shifting to suit the audience.
    As for God changing the one praying, the only reason why I am studying counselling now is because God changed my mind. I remember it clearly, I was at a farewell lunch for our last student pastor, just prior to him taking up a new pastoral position in Canberra. He was telling us of his initial decision to go to collage and the huge mental hurdles he had to overcome to make that decision. I remember saying to myself, “Well, I am glad I don’t have to make that decision”. Then an almost audible voice came back, “Why do you keep telling yourself that?” And, thud, I said, “Oh, crap!” So, I said to my wife that afternoon, I’ve been given marching orders, but I don’t know what for, because I know it’s not for being a pastor. So, I stepped out, picked the most general course I could and picked a counselling subject while I awaited further instructions. Those instructions came within weeks, I was here to do counselling. So I transferred to the Associate Diploma, and the rightness of this has been affirmed to me many times over.
    Which brings me to elaborate on how God speaks, or at least how I understand it. Whilst I affirm SCRIPTURE as the primary way through which God speaks to us, I equally affirm it is not the only way God speaks to us, that God also speaks through the SAINTS (that is, Christian community), through outward SIGNS (and this can include all manner of things) and through the inner promptings of the SPIRIT (which is what I experienced above). At different times I have experienced God in different ways, I can’t elaborate much more than that as God tends to be wild and unpredictable, but I do affirm it is definitely two way, if one is open to it.

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