I have been re-thinking / re-imagining what prayer is and could be for several years now…(see here, here, here and here, oh, and here) …trying to make it more fun, creative, engaging, profound and relevant. A few months ago a simple, new idea came to mind while I was….you guessed it…praying. It’s not really an idea, it is just a phrase…well, not really a phrase, it’s a conjunction…a two word conjunction. Hopefully you remember from your high school English class that a conjunction joins two words or phrases together.
So here’s the deal…when you are praying in the “asking for stuff” mode, (more technically referred to as petition, supplication or intercession, and there are several other types) whether it is for you or for others…add this little conjunction – “so that” – at the end of your request and then express the reason or the desired outcome of what you are asking.
Once you add – “so that” – at the end and you begin to ponder the “why” of your petition, well…let’s say that sometimes it make you re-think what you’re asking for, especially if you are trying to line up your life with what is good, gracious, encouraging, caring, healing, inclusive, loving, etc, etc…or what many (and Jesus) would call the Kingdom of God.
For example – “Dear God, uh…please give me a couple of million euros….uh, so that, uh…let’s see…uh, so, that I could have a comfortable life, free of debt, with plenty of the latest gadgets and, uh….a really cool car. Amen” Ok, well, uh….that just doesn’t jive does it? Something is terribly wrong with this prayer. I mean you can ask it – but I don’t think the Big Guy upstairs is going to answer it. I doesn’t sync with his way of doing things…his MO… his personality.
But, on the other hand, if you said… “Dear God, please give me a couple of million euros…so that…uh, I could help others live more comfortably and get out of debt. Amen.” Then that starts to line up with the way Jesus lived out his life, caring for others. He probably still isn’t going to answer it…but at least the second part is noble and admirable.
My advice would be to keep the second part (maybe improve on it) and then change the first part… the actual request. So it could go something like…”Hey God…uh, it’s me again…since You are probably NOT going to drop a million euros into my bank account so that I can help others…I would ask that you show me how to use some of the money that I DO have (and maybe to spend a bit less on myself) so that I can help out my friends and even some other people I don’t know yet…..and maybe you could send a little extra work my way so that I can bless another friend with something they really need….uh, Amen.“
Now this…..this is starting to get God’s attention. This is beginning to flow like the river of God, to have a rhythm like the dance of God, to help present reality become like the dream of God. What has happened is that both sides of the prayer – joined by “so that” – have started to affect each other. It may be helpful to write things down or say your prayer out loud…at least until you get the hang of it. If you want God to take you seriously and listen to you…then take Him and His character seriously. Learn to be interested in what He is interested in, ask Him for help with projects that will delight Him. I find that this makes my praying more “missional” – that is…it forces my requests to unite with His purposes, His mission in the world.
Try taking “so that” on a spin around the block…in your own “real life” dialogs with God… in down-to-earth, practical situations. And feel free to push back, ask questions or tell me your own stories.