I think the way you pray — and even sometimes the words you choose — can reveal a lot about where your theological centre of gravity lies.
I’ve been challenged by the way Paul prays for the little church he’d been involved in planting in Thessalonica — 1 Thessalonians 3.11-13:
Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The content of Paul’s prayer is, of course, inspiring. How often do we pray these kinds of things for each other?
But almost as inspiring is the way Paul prays here.
I’m not talking so much about the way he frames this prayer for God to stir up the Thessalonians’ love for each other and for all with dual references to ‘our God and Father’ and ‘our Lord Jesus’. (Although that is awesome.)
I’m talking about the fact that Paul doesn’t once ask God for “help”.
Look at the things Paul asks God about: intervention to open his way to return to Thessalonica, increasing and abounding love, hearts strengthened in holiness for a blameless verdict at Christ’s return.
This kind of ‘directness’ is often lacking in my prayer life. I usually find myself asking God to ‘help’ me do things (often good things — though, if I’m honest, not always). But I rarely ask him to work more directly — stirring me up, teaching me, guiding me, strengthening me, opening the way for me.
Yet Paul’s theological centre of gravity lies in a radically different place. For him, God’s initiative and action is far more decisive than ours. And it’s so refreshing!