I want to write a bit about mystery, and more specifically about God as mystery. Many of us dislike any sense of uncertainty or mystery when it comes to God. We want to be able to describe his ways perfectly. It is expected that with enough Bible Studies under our belt, we can move beyond mystery and into knowledge or certainty. People come to me asking very difficult theological questions, assuming that if one has studied long and hard enough, he can live beyond mystery--that she can give exacting answers to the most difficult of questions.
We want a definable God with definable ways.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but I'm afraid we don't have one of those.
When Abraham was called by God, he was invited to go to a place that he did not know. Abraham was invited into mysterious living. His calling wasn't to what he could see or understand, but into obedience in places and time when God would seem to make no sense. His marriage, his fatherhood, his role as an uncle and patriarch were in all ways confusing. Read his story in Genesis 12 and following, and tell me you think he perceived God as anything but mysterious.
But when we pray, we want to get right down to the facts. We will tell God how things are and then define the appropriate divine response. "Lord, you know so and so has these problems, and we ask you to take them away." We assume God will solve problems exactly as we imagine.
So when I repeat prayers in order to center myself in God's presence, those prayers are not of my own writing. They are however, very much from my heart and will. I pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me." for long periods of time, and then I come to the place where I feel comfortable switching to "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on ___________." And in the blank I insert a person or situation or church or whatever.
In our western way of thinking, if we are not independent to pray what we want and how we want, then our prayers are not authentic. I disagree.
Often in our evangelical protestant way of thinking, if prayers are memorized, they must be only empty ritual. Again I disagree. And I do so because I believe that God is mystery, "his paths beyond searching out." And my task in prayer is not to instruct him, but to humbly place myself before him...as in the prayer above. Or as in the "Lord's Prayer," with its phrase: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
(Over the past couple of weeks I have been silent here. Our family lost a dear loved one, and we spent most of two weeks in California. I apologize for the lack of attention to this site, however, obviously my heart and attentions were rightly placed elsewhere.)