Missional Prayer - Learning to Pray with People
“We are called, near to Jesus and with Jesus and in Jesus, to be with God with the people on our heart. That is what you will be promising when I say to you 'will you be diligent in prayers.' You will be promising to be daily with God with the people on your heart.”
- Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today
It’s not what you think! If you read the title and thought, “Nope, just nope, not me. I don’t pray aloud, especially in a group of people. Nope.” I get it, you’re not alone, not by a long shot. I’ve talked to so many people who don’t feel comfortable praying aloud or praying with other people. Now, this is something we need to chat about and do some spiritual excavation around, however, that’s not what I’m talking about today. Don’t worry!
Here, I want to propose that if prayer is the key to finding our true home, who is God, then missional prayer can’t simply be prayer for missionaries in other countries or prayer that is for the expansion of the kingdom or something like that. So what am I talking about when I say the words missional prayer?
Let’s start with the word missional.
It’s easy to read this word and except popular ideas of missional that define the term as our activity on behalf of God. Mission or missional understanding needs to go deeper than going on an overseas mission trip or even doing a local service project. It also has to be more than living in your neighborhood and trying to share the good news with people who don’t know Jesus. These are good things but they are not at the heart of genuinely missional thinking. We are missing a couple of essential pieces if missional thinking ends up being primarily about what we do for God.
First, God is always and already present and at work. We essentially can’t do work for God without God being present. This reality marker is missing in our typical mission mindset, it’s not “for” God, it is always “with” God. The second essential piece to the conversation is to understand that mission is participation. Because God is always and already present, our being in the world, our living and moving is loaded with the potential for participation! Maybe the crux of our sin is sidestepping this participation and doing our own thing or anything on our own.
At Holy Trinity McK one of our values is (co)Missioned. The desire behind this value is to articulate that we are a people who are on mission with God; learning to be aware of his presence in all of our moments and participating with him in every situation.
When we speak of the mission of God, we are talking about the activity of God in the world. God's generative, loving, saving, redeeming and reconciling action, which he invites each and every one of us to participate in. We are commissioned by God to live this sort of life. But God never sends us out alone, "Go... for I will be with you." Jesus says in Matthew 28. This is (co)missioned life with God in the world, for the sake of the world.
So... how does this fit with prayer? What if prayer was about being at home with God, as I proposed last week. Then missional prayer would be something like being at home (with God) with people. Or *praying* when we are *with people*. People we know, people we don’t know, people we like and don’t like, our friends and even our enemies—being with God, with them.
Michael Ramsey, the 100th archbishop of Canterbury, said that one of the primary roles of the Christian Priest was, "to be with God with people on our heart." He must not have been the only one to articulate this sort of posture because Eugene Peterson says, “From fairly extensive reading about pastor and priest predecessors, I was impressed that everyday pastoral life was primarily concerned with developing a life of prayer among the people.”
You might be tempted to say at this point, “Great, but I’m not a priest.” Well, I would like to remind us that every person is a priest! Every person, according to the scripture, is called to mediate divine reality to a watching world—to help people become aware of God's loving presence in their lives. The New Testament refers to this as the priesthood of all believers, see 1 Peter 2. Yes, even Anglicans, who have funny folks who wear white collars, believe in this idea from scripture.
So I invite you to a life of missional prayer, which is essentially the work of the priesthood of all believers. We are all called to develop a life with God, you can call it a prayer life if you want, that is active and alive while we are with all and any of the people we interact with in our ordinary, everyday life.
Missional prayer is learning to pray with people. Sometime you might even need to pray aloud, but more often, it will simply be about being aware of God’s presence and actively participating in His life and action wherever you go. We do this with friends or strangers, neighbors or enemies. Just be with God with people, turn your thoughts and actions, whatever and wherever, into intentional and mindful participation in the love and activity of God.
May we learn to be the priesthood of believers, those in constant prayer and participation with our ever-present and wildly good God.
St. Ignatius of Loyola had a practice that he developed to cultivate this sort of active life with God. He called it the Examen.
There are some great versions and resources for this exercise. Here are a few links...
* Pray As You Go (also try their audio Examen)
* The Examen, Fr. Timothy Gallagher
Or just google The Examen Prayer
Here is my translation / version of the Examen. I would invite you to use it as you spend time with God before sleep, during compline, or whenever you have a few minutes to reflect with God on the past day or experience.
Become aware of God’s presence and love. Remind yourself that God is with you. There is nothing to fear; you are safe and loved.
Bring to mind the good things that God has brought into your life, and let gratitude begin to bubble up. What gifts, big or small, has God given you today? Thank him for every good and perfect gift.
Ask God to show you where you have failed, fallen or sinned in the past day. We’re talking about sins both known and unknown. Ask God to bring to mind any time you didn’t fully participate with him and turned from his leading.
Look back on your day again, each and every thing you did. Pay attention to what you thought about, wanted, felt and desired during those moments. Begin to sense God’s activity. When were you cooperating most fully with God, and when were you not?
With confidence ask God, the one whose loving presence has been with you and is always with you, to forgive you for all the moments you went your own way. Remember the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we also have forgiven those who trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:12).
Ask yourself, “Going forward, how can I receive and participate in God’s grace, resolving to live as a cooperative partner with God for his glory and the good of my neighbor?” Invite God into what is ahead of you in your coming day and ask for his grace.
Saint Ignatius recommends you end with The Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13.
Here’s an imagine you can download and print or save to your phone to help you cultivate this practice.