The BEMA (βῆμα, בּימה ): We pray God’s words
It was the misprint of the week: Our church bulletin in Kingston put the names of the hymns in print every Sunday. I was glancing down the list, and “the God of Abraham prays” caught my eye!
The owner of a Christian bookstore with Brethren heritage winked at me over the pew. He’d seen it too. We touched base after church: Could this be an unintentional theological note, or was the typist just not thinking? Clearly, the typist surely did not mean to say that Jesus prays to Himself, or God prays to Himself…. On the other hand, Jesus prays to his Father… Alright, but what did Jesus say to his all-knowing Father? … Well, there it is, the Lord’s Prayer. At that point our sense of humour kicked in: the hymn’s real title was, “the God of Abraham praise”, after all …. So we had a little laugh at our over-theologizing, gave the somewhat embarrassed church secretary a hug and got on with our lives.
But I could not get the line out of my head. As I sit in silent meditation in the early morning (I was just instructed that 3 am is a perfect time to pray for those in spiritual danger by a chaplain who has served in the Middle East), I got distracted by thinking about how we pray for healing, for the sick, for those in danger, for those who are still slapping God’s outstretched arms away. We talk about James’s passage about the “the prayer of faith”. We still are inclined to blunder about worrying about whether we have enough faith to qualify for healing (this error continues to cause the disappointed a lot of pain, sadly).
Jesus reminds us that having no faith (the father said “I believe, help my unbelief” AND the healing of his child happened!) is nothing like having a tiny, tiny amount – which he is delighted to grow into a towering tree in His time.
Some people who pray often for healing teach that among a group of elders one will somehow pray “the prayer of faith”, inspired by the Spirit, which is what God is waiting for to act. True, maybe, but I am not so sure that is helpful, either. Prayer that is based on self-focus is a working from a pathetically small base, speaking personally. I joke with men that men who are wrapped in themselves present a pretty small bundle… my wife (lovingly) reminds me that I need to include myself on the list! … well, 0k, sometimes….
What is prayer when we wait, asking God to show us what HE wants us to pray? When we ask in Jesus’s name, and we wait on the Lord to know what and how to ask? Is silence the first and deepest prayer?
If you have been reading along (see previous Bema articles), you know already where this is going. When we pray to the God of Abraham, who already knows all and sees all, and still loves us, we have nothing new to tell Him. Yet we are to pray, along the lines we have been taught by Jesus himself. In that respect, Jesus prays like his mother, “Let Thy will be done, as you have said”. Wait on the Lord. Let silence call, as deep calls to deep, and, as Paul writes, the Spirit already searches and prays out of the deep unknown reaches of Reality (which includes us), for us, and shows us how much, or how little, to ask. Sometimes the best prayers have no words. Or we lift our sick, our dying, our broken, ourselves, and, like little children, we say, “Look, Jesus! … please help!” Usually, that’s enough, isn’t it?
It is my task to ask in accord with Jesus’s will and in His name. I have to do that from silence and openness to God.