Today, we'll examine the third response I received to my December 11th posting, in which I posited the notion of Social Prayer. I love the raw honesty expressed in this response.
"I like the phrase 'unaffected prayer'. Natural would be a good adjective, unhurried, unpurposed. 99% of my exposure to public prayer is from a pulpit, in meetings, and at Tuesday morning prayers - all structured, purposeful, and often 'affected'. Very few can do it [pray] naturally - most of us are not comfortable sharing our prayers with others. Everyone fears being judged. So weird, so wrong, but its the culture we are in."
Within the response lies a most important question, "How can I pray unaffectedly [to God], when living in such an affected culture?" The question would be challenging enough if the affectations were 'in the world', yet what is implied is that the affected culture lies 'within the church'!
Some of Jesus' harshest words were spoken to those who made a life of faith more difficult to live. God help us when we introduce - let alone impose - definitions of quality or expectations of excellence that prevent anyone from coming before Almighty Yahweh as anything more than a child in simple faith and purity of expression.
Brennan Manning, in The Ragamuffin Gospel offers this simply observation:
"The child doesn't have to struggle to get himself (herself) in a good position to have a good relationship with with God:..."
Elsewhere in Manning's wonderful writings, he reminds us in numerous ways, that no loving father would chastise or ignore a tired, burdened, expectant, or eager child for lapses into inattentiveness, letting out tears or sighs, bursting out inarticulate thoughts from the heart, or struggling with inarticulate language or unpracticed vocabulary. If such is true of a good human father, how much more so is this true of the One who alone knows our feeble frames and yet loves us with a love that surpasses all understanding and limits.
Just as it is time for more frequent social prayer, perhaps it's high time for more unaffected prayers that hold the possibilities of shattering the affectations of our orchestrated environments or infiltrating our carefully crafted liturgies.