Pastor Vic remembered my name, which I was pleased and impressed by, as we interacted once late last October.
People who were there last week had a handout (TheThoughtfulChristian.com), and we started with the last page, which has various quotations about prayer, and Owen invited us to think about which one seemed closest to our own experience/understanding of prayer.
As we discussed, I was particularly struck by this commentary on intercessory prayer:
But when we pray for others we stand, as it were, beside them in solidarity with their pain or their expectation. And in doing so, we make clear to God what are the priorities of our compassion.We then started going through the handout from the beginning (and will definitely be spending more than one session on it), and I really liked the ideas that "prayer changes people and people change things" and "prayer enhances us rather than changes things in the world."
-John L. Bell
As I skimmed through the handout, I realized that it was actually presenting a variety of perspectives on prayer, some of which were in tension with each other, and didn't seem to have a definite "this is the correct belief about prayer," which given that I was sitting in this Sunday School at a church more conservative than anywhere I would make my "home" (where the participants definitely seemed to have a theology of prayer that I wasn't entirely comfortable with), I was surprised and impressed.
Owen exhorted us to read Psalm 106 this week.
Edit: Someone mentioned Jesus' "let this cup pass from me ... not my will but thine be done" prayer, and I was reminded of a blogpost I had read recently -- which wasn't relevant to the conversation, but which I had found interesting.
I reread this passage and I saw a new possibility. Christ was not agonizing over the difficulty of the task; Christ was not dreading the pain or embarrassment as I had always thought. Christ loved his disciples, Christ loved his work and ministry and being with the crowds and maybe, just maybe, Christ was agonizing over the thought of having to leave all those whom he loved. Facing the loss of both life and those relationships I treasured, I too fell to my knees and prayed: “Oh God, if it is possible, may this be taken from me.” The gift of life, love, community, relationships and sharing became very precious.
“For God so loved the world. . .” How can we begin to imagine the depth of God’s love as it is shared in Christ Jesus? I had a glimmer- a glimpse- of God’s deep and abiding love for all people as I watched Jesus agonizing in the garden- not in fear and dread but with cutting pain by the realization that he was to leave his precious brothers and sisters.