Thursday, April 26, 2012

Slapped by Prayer (Ephesians 1:15-17)

From the time I first heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the holy ones, I have never stopped thanking God for you and remembering you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Savior Jesus Christ, the God of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation, to bring you to a rich knowledge of the Creator.                                                                                      
                   Ephesians 1:15-17

The last time I was informed by someone that they were praying for me it was truly uninvited. The issue was a gay union I officiated. The prayer for me was offered by another minister in the community. He was concerned for my soul. His “prayer,” intended  or not, was a religious slap. 

Violent prayers, while plentiful, are not prayers the scriptures invite us to immerse ourselves in. I must admit that I have been very tempted. However, the text invites us into a more profound and benevolent form of prayer. Our prayers are to be far from vindicating our own sense of right. Our prayers should be that all may enter a fuller experience of the Sacred.

This can be a difficult invitation. At times my prayers tend to dwell in the arena of hurt and anger. I cheer the prophet Obadiah: “Bring them to their knees, God!” I have trouble with Paul: “Grant them a richer knowledge of you, God.”
My cynical shadow even gets into the act with its vengeance/hope that once narrow minded persons explore the Sacred remorse for their bullying attitudes will overcome them. Yet, this is not the import of the passage. The apostle Paul clearly encourages us to remember each other in prayer for the purpose that the Creator may be more fully known and loved.

Where am I in such a prayer? Where is my despair? Where is the time to rub my hands and think, “ha, ha, you’ll get yours now!”? The Sacred will have none of this, for in the end my cynicism and need for retribution only hurts me. As the saying goes, holding a grudge is like drinking poison – only the one drinking is affected while the troublemakers continue on their way.

The scriptures teach me that prayer is not a weapon – or a bitch slap for that matter – but rather a balm for peace and healing. If I am to truly hold another in prayer it is because I am seeking the best for that person. This passage teases our imagination about what the “best” looks like – wisdom, discovery, and rich knowledge of God.

Imagine a world where those set against others were filled with a rich understanding of the Holy. Imagine a world where all people of faith act on our wisdom and knowledge of the Sacred. How different would it be? How plentiful would our lives become?


  1. I always appreciate prayer which is Faith centered and directed towards the "Will" of the Father being done in all matters...whether what I would like to happen or not. In my Faith spiritual journey...privately & as a physician of 34 years...I have witnessed many "bad" situations being turned around by the Father's Will to accomplish good in the lives of those involved directly or on the periphery. To sum it up...Love always conquers Hate...always and in all ways.

    1. Just finished a middle school retreat where we used the image of a door to explore prayer. Would be interested in your sense of prayer as the door of the heart/soul to sacred realities.