I’ve just been watching Francis Chan’s latest video. Fantastically, it’s available to view for free (yay!) over on the Relevant website. Watch it now!
First off, I want to say that I think it’s really, really good. I love the imagery and Chan is a really excellent communicator. It’s a great production and he has some very important things to say about the way we pray. He talks a lot about how we need to align our will with God’s so that in all our prayers there is an element of ‘thy will be done’. In this way, Chan says, we will be praying genuine, unselfish and godly prayers which the Lord will be delighted to answer.
For example, praying in a way not aligned with God’s will might be compared to going into a chemist with your grocery shopping list – ultimately, both you and the shopkeeper will end up disappointed (my dodgy analogy, not Chan’s).
I think this is something that Christians (or, well, me at least) really need to hear and take on board today.
With all that said, I offer the following as a reflection in the video and our attitudes to prayer, not a criticism of it. (I’m a bit sick of some super-critical elements in the Christian blogosphere that seem intolerant of different views. What a way to glorify God.)
Anyway, one thing I’m not very clear on is whether Chan is talking about ‘prayer’ or about ‘asking God for stuff’ I’m not sure that they are identical - although ‘asking God for stuff’ is part of prayer, I don’t think it’s the whole story. That said, I frequently confuse them, especially when I’m feeling particularly self-absorbed.
And I don’t think Chan is saying that they’re the same thing (the blurb under the video most definitely suggests he isn’t), but it would be really great to see something on basic prayer that doesn’t just consider the shopping-list approach. God isn’t a shopkeeper (again, my analogy – many apologies to Chan).
How do we enthuse and encourage people in the more difficult aspects of prayer? How do we train people to learn to listen to God in their own way? To share their worries with God without rushing straight on to what they want God to do about it? How can we explore what it means to dialogue with God, or to simply rest wordlessly in God’s presence?
I, as someone who struggles massively with prayer, would love to see some creative answers to these questions – and I’m sure there are lots out there already.
Answers on a postcard, please!