Monday, January 31, 2011

Experiments in Prayer

"As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Isaiah 66:13

I've heard it said that words define reality, I'm not sure if that's true, but the words that I use do indicate preferences and prejudices. I see this all the time on news reports when different organizations use different terms for the same thing. Illegal Alien or Undocumented Worker, Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, Marriage Equality or Gay Marriage. Each of these terms carry subtly different shades of meaning and weight to different sides of the topic.

When you go to Target you are not a Customer you are a Guest. Disney Theme Parks have Guests that are attended by Cast Members. Different terms create different relationships and expectations.

So what has this to do with prayer? Well I wrote a status update last week on Facebook that said 'All our ways of describing God fall short of who God is, so don't get too attached to them.' It was inspired by a conversation in my Ignatian Spiritual Exercise Group when we talked about 'who' we pray too.

When I was young my prayers were all addressed to 'God', even before I became a Christian I remember praying. After having a standard Evangelical Conversion Experience (walk forward in front of everyone, say a three part prayer and feel a little emotional) my prayers were all addressed to Jesus.

In my mid twenties I went through a very charismatic phase so most of my prayers were addressed to the Holy Spirit (or sometimes just Spirit if I felt informal).

I still address my prayers different ways at different times, but I became aware a few years ago that my default mode was to pray to 'Father God'.

Now by using 'Father' I'm not placing assigning a specific gender onto God, I'm more indicating the intimacy of relationship. Maybe the word 'Papa' would fit more in this regard. I would imagine that some variant of 'Father God' or 'Almighty God' would be the most prevalent term used in prayers.

It really doesn't matter what term I use, but my word choices indicate preferences and prejudices and in some way I believe they help shape the contents of my prayer.

Now I believe that God displays qualities that we traditionally label as masculine and others we label as feminine....

...and so for 1 week I decided to pray to Mother God.

Even though I offered intellectual assent to the phrase, I still found my tongue tripping over the phrase when I prayed out loud. Most of my prayers are not spoken aloud, but I found that the reinforcement of my ears hearing what my mouth prayed was helpful.

And so I prayed to Mother God, mainly in the car or in my office....and I noticed something....the content of my prayers shifted slightly. When I was a child I would ask my Mother and Father the same question, but I would phrase it differently. The way I would talk about a topic with my Dad would be different to Mom....and so it was in my prayers.

I was still praying about the same situations and topics, but the shift in language caused a shift in emphasis and sometimes even a shift in request.

I've heard it said that we become like the God we worship, if we believe in a Judgemental God, then we reflect that in our lives. If we believe in a God who extends grace to us, then we are more likely to extend grace to others.

We love as we are loved.

The term 'Mother' elicits more compassion from me than 'Father', so as this experiment has 'changed God' hopefully it will change me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful insights. Thanks for sharing! :)