First published October 15, 2013
I was reading about a conversation Jesus had with a woman from Samaria. In this conversation, Jesus speaks seven times, the woman speaks six. Jesus speaks first, asking her to do him a favor. Each time she speaks, it feels like a diversion, a change of subjects. Each time he speaks, it is a response that pulls her back to a theme. It never feels manipulative or judgmental, even though Jesus is honest with her. By the end of the conversation, after his last answer, she hurries away to bring other people to converse with Jesus, to find out whether they think he’s telling the truth.
When we talk about prayer, we often say that’s it’s like conversation with God. We talk about how we should approach praying, how to become ‘better’ at it. We talk about having the right motives, the right attitude.
We talk as if we are the only ones talking, the only ones with motive. But as I was reading, I started wondering for the first time: “What does God want from prayer?”
- Where is he trying to direct the conversation? Does he want to guide us to understand something?
- What are his ways of responding to our attempts to change the subject? Does he say, “that’s stupid” or does he, as with the woman, he acknowledge the idea but redirect the theological discussion to a new level?
- When we ask what he means by something he says, how does he respond? Or do we ever ask?
- Does he ever initiate conversations, simply asking for a drink of water as he did when talking with the woman next to the well? Who might be his proxies with that request, the people who are asking for water on his behalf?
What does God want from prayer?