Not long ago I suggested that our relationship with God - if it is to function and mature as a genuine relationship - requires special times (individual time set aside with God), spontaneous times (practicing the presence of God; relating to God in and through the stuff of life) and social times (corporate times or prayer and worship).
I guess the main thought that grips me there is in the words 'if it is to function and mature as a genuine relationship.' Is our relationship with God really a relationship? And if it is, does that not challenge many of our concepts and practices of prayer? Or is it so unlike any other relationship that the two cannot be equated? (I don't have the answers by the way, I'm just asking. It's my blog, I get to ask!)
I mean, things like a 2-way conversation and time apart as well as time together, natural ups and downs and falling-out and making-up. Would they be helpful ideas to bring into our concept of prayer?
If prayer is a relationship, then different people will relate to God in different ways - because different people relate differently! As I've already said, my wife is far more social than me, whereas I'm happy spending time on my own. Isn't just common-sense to bring all of that into our relationship with God? That would mean releasing my wife from the burden of a quiet-time and liberating me from the night-mare of prayer meetings!
But I think it is so easy to go too far with that line of reasoning. Even though I encourage those around me to 'play to their strengths' spiritually-speaking, I also seek to get them to a point where they can begin guarding their weaknesses. It's like a Boxer knowing that his right-hook is his speciality will spend ages working on that and it may form the basis of any plan of attack that he comes up with. But his Coach will also continually remind him to improve his left-side defence.
When it comes to personality-types, a mature person has reached a point where they are free not to act the way that their Myers-Briggs results suggests they would. They are actually free to adopt a different perspective depending on the situation they are facing. Thus, I might be a shy introvert, but there would be something wrong if I used that as an excuse not to walk down the aisle on my Wedding-day!
Is it the same with prayer? So, though I might "specialise" in individual times of quiet contemplation, if I am to mature in this relationship, I also need to pay attention to those areas of "weakness" and at least invest some time and energy in seeking to develop there. I may always be imbalanced in that respect, but surely I can seek to grow in all areas?
As I said, I think this applies to groups as well. For example, my Orthodox friends are great at short liturgical prayers, but might never have spent time in any kind of devotional Bible-study. Likewise, us evangelicals are great at Quiet Times (or at least, that's the impression we like to give!), we may never have sought to practice the presence of God.
Drat - dinner's burning! I'll have to finish this later. Let's see if I can practice the presence now!
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