Friday, January 14, 2011

unfinished thoughts on prayer

So it turns out:
That house we blessed:
It caught on fire.

Well a little bit.
Rumor has it the Latin Kings burnt the building next door down,
because, apparently, someone was selling crack out of the basement.
And they weren't a king.
But they were dealing on King territory.
So the Kings lit up the house like a crack pipe.

Competition gone.

And some of the flames jumped across.
To our blessed building.

The night the fire was started,
we were reading a book on the spiritual disciplines.

A chapter about prayer.

And discussing.
And disagreeing—with each other, but more so, with the book.
What does prayer do?
Why do we pray?
What do we mean by “the power of prayer?”

In the genre of prayer, what is a blessing? What's the point?

We were discussing the apartment blessing during Bible Study.

Rich stumbled in.

He informed us that the apartment was on fire.

“You just blessed this place, and now it caught on fire.”
(One of the first things we heard when we arrived on the scene).

Days later I saw Cosmo at CVS.

Turns out that:
Yeah. The flames jumped over.
But the flames stopped right were Diana had made the cross.

He told me we saved their lives.

Not sure that's the case

At Christmas I like to write about God being born among people.

When they come together.

In hope.

In love.

In pregnant expectation.

Etc., Etc. you can read past Christmas sermons, if you'd really like.

Upon discussing this with a good friend, and pastor colleague, while in Minnesota,


it became clear that,

the Truth of God being born among God's people when they gather in God's name that is Love,

is complemented by the Truth

that when God's Children,

or when any of God's Creation(s),

come(s) together for purposes of hate, or oppression, or the multitude of other anti-love and self-advancing-at-the-expense-on-everyone-else nonsense that penetrates the heart of much of our society (such as burning a building down, not caring who dies, so that you might remain some sort of pathetic, adult-juvenile, drug-pushing, ho-pimping “king,” using your “kingship” to oppress in much the exact same way as any of the tyrants of history; treating people as objects to be sold, consumers to get addicted, products for your use, disposal, and profit, using violence and fear to subject your neighborhoods into silent submission—making you the epitome of Capitalistic ideals...

And pretty gross...

[“It shall not be so among you. Whoever wants to be great among you, let them be your servant...” -Matt. 20:26]

(Rant paused...)

It turns out that when people gather in the many ways that people gather not-for-Love, that there, rather than God being born:

God is crucified.

God is beaten and abused.

God is put to death.

God is Murdered.

Christmas is True. So is Good Friday.

Maybe all the time.

Maybe everywhere.

I think that most of us who still pray.

(And there are a lot of us, and we pray in different ways)

Or, at least most of the praying-folk I know,

(which are a different breed of pray-ers, I admit),

Don't really think that God answers prayer in the same way that Santa answers long letters from rich kids.

We just don't.

I wish God did.

But as my friend Matt has said
(he's a chaplain):
if that were the case, there wouldn't be any sick people left in the hospital.

How awesome would that be?

The reality is, however,
that when something really big is coming up:
Someone is sick,
Someone might die,
Someone might get a job or a scholarship,
Whatever “the big thing” is...

We pray like we do believe that.

Or at least I do.

And, darn it, I mean it.
We mean it.

I was praying that way yesterday.
And today.
And friends were praying, too.
Maybe the same way.

But what we prayed for didn't happen.

I'm not surprised.

But I am disappointed.

Just like I was disappointed when it seemed the blessing didn't stick.

Even though, in that sense of the blessing “sticking”
or working,
or being successful, or whatever,
I never really expected it to.

God is born.

God dies.

Among God's people.

In Human Love.

In human hate.

Why pray?

Why bless?

Not gonna give the answer in this blog.

I don't have 'the' answer.

Though I have ideas. And convictions about prayer.

And I continue to pray.

Not because God answers prayer like Santa answers long letters from rich kids.

God doesn't.

I don't think.

But because...

Well, again, that's for another blog. Maybe. Sometime.

Peace and Love.

Give birth, not death.



  1. Hey there- I just wanted to say that I just recently surfed onto your blog- and it is great! It is amazing to see Lutherans and congregations taking their relationship and duty to their communities seriously. I'm a resident of the South Side and a fairly new ELCA member (formerly LCMS somehow...) and I am sick of seeing stuff like this:
    while people ignore our responsibilities to our neighbors. You guys are awesome. I look forward to stalking your blog and seeing what else you get up to!

  2. Thanks, Patti! Good to hear from a fellow Southsider. And glad you found a church home. It can be hard to find one, no doubt. Peace! tom

  3. It is my personal conviction that, one reason why prayers go unanswered is not that we asked for "too much", but that we asked for "too little" =) - we work up our courage to ask for a camel, whereas our God is a God Who is specialized in passing a camel through a needle!! =) We beg for God to keep helping us patch up our tent down here, whereas our God has many mansions prepared for us up there...

    Prayers for the "Latin kings", and all those who, like them, are being sorrowfully oppressed by their self-hatreds & other-hatreds... By grace, may thousand secret obstacles be sent their way to cumber their hastening chariot towards outright sin and crime, so that its wheels drive heavily, saving it from utter ruin! (Words of wisdom from Newman, Oxford Sermons, 1832) May their souls be captured by the real King, the only King, so that they may be freed, to live...

    "For people, it is impossible. But for God..."