Friday, October 21, 2011

No Small Prayers

My life is better, my perspective wiser, my theology deeper because of a mentor whom I have never met - Eugene Peterson.  I'm not sure how many of his books I have read, but I plan to read them all eventually because every time I encounter his words, I am changed.  His words mature me as I read them.  I would be an even bigger jerk with an even narrower mind if it weren't for what feels like personal, one-on-one counsel in his writings.

On such book is Wisdom of Each Other.  This is a small book easily read in two cups of coffee or can be ruminated over for months.  It is fictional in that the book is a collection of pastoral letters to a person that does not exist about a conversation that never happened.  It is very real in that these letters are a composite of pastoral correspondance he received over decades of ministry.  He streamlined hundreds of conversations and letters into one plot line with one man who returned to his faith in his 40's.

This post is about prayer.  This post is about one of the letters in that book that talk about prayer.  I was reminded of this letter this week by colleague, friend, and mentor Ike Reeser. Read my post, please.  Comment if you so desire.  But, even better, buy the book and read it and discuss it with friends.

In one of the letters Peterson writes to his bemoaned friend about a women he encountered who prayed hard for a convenient parking spot at the store and regularly got it but treated most employees inside that store as obstacles in her way and servants to her cause.  Gunner, the friend, was annoyed at how small her prayers were.  Peterson turned it a bit to say that for this woman this was no small prayer. This woman was praying about the biggest and most important thing in her life.  He then thundered this priceless phrase:

"Her problem is not small prayers but a small life."

When you saw the title, you may have assumed my point would be something like: We can pray about whatever is on our hearts.  God hears every small concern.  Everything little thing we pray about is a big thing to God.

Nope.  Not saying that here.

You might be able to make that case.  It would require so stretching and finagling of the evidence, but you could work to make that case.  However, in saying that there are "no small prayers" I am simply echoing Peterson in saying that whatever it is we are praying about reveals to what really is the "big things" in our worlds.

There are no small prayers.

Just small lives.

What do we pray about?  What does that say about what matters to us?  Do our prayers reveal small lives?  Do our prayers reveal a small god?  Or do our prayers reveal lives lived robustly, lives caught up in the grand narrative of God's redemption being worked in our world?

If we are praying for convenient parking spots, then a statement about our lives have been made.  We pray about our god's / our God's will.  Whatever it is we pray for, we are invoking our god/God in that.

There are no small prayers.

Just small lives.

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