Your Prayer Life
Q. Who are you led to pray for these days?
I like to pray with the image of a mountain stream. It starts high up, where I ask for a God’s-eye-view of the world, a kind of vision correction so that I begin to see the world more as God does. The stream starts small, and I pray for those who are close to me: my loved ones, close friends, people I think about every day. The stream keeps expanding, and I spread my prayer wider to encompass neighbors, missionaries, acquaintances. Finally, it ends in a reservoir, and I reflect on Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Americans have a lot of enemies these days, so that’s a big pool indeed.
Q. What does it mean to pray?
I used to view prayer as a kind of transaction in which I waved my arms desperately in an attempt to get God’s attention. Now I view prayer as two things: inviting myself into God’s life and inviting God into my life. I know what God wants done in the world by looking at Jesus, who brings mercy and grace and justice and compassion. What part should I play as a partner of God’s activity on earth? Prayer connects me with God so that I “tune in” to what God wants accomplished through me.
Then, I invite God into my life, asking that I start viewing the world around me not through my selfish, American-culture eyes, but rather through God’s eyes. Again, I get the best clue into how God views that world through the life of Jesus. How did Jesus treat people, and how do I? It will take a lot of prayer to close that gap!
Q. The Christian artist Makoto Fujimura said that “prayer is the highest art form.” What is your view?
It sounds good to call prayer “the highest art form,” and in theory I have to agree. Most of the time, though, prayer feels like hard work. I’ve learned that everything worthwhile—whether creative arts, classical music, athletics, or spiritual disciplines—requires sustained periods of exercise and commitment. Prayer is like that for me. In my writing, I dare not wait until I feel “inspired,” or I would never write. I have to sit at the desk and get to work. The same with prayer.