on being with eugene peterson (part 4): on prayer and the (dangerous) search for transcendence21 Sep 2018
ok, last couple of points made by eugene that just really resonated with me.
MS. TIPPETT: Something you said about prayer also strikes me. It strikes me that when you talk about the power of words, the importance and care with them, it’s not just speaking, it’s also about reading, it’s also about listening. You talk about if we pray without listening, we pray out of context. It seems to me the same thing comes through about speaking. If we speak without listening, we speak out of context. Listening also doesn’t accompany a lot of our public speech now.
MR. PETERSON: The listening business is the part of prayer that gets most neglected. People have taught me this. But one of the best teachers for me has been Karl Barth. He’s just adamant about when you pray you don’t ask God for things. You pray to listen, and then when you’ve listened, you can hear God speak, and take you into paths you never thought about.
MS. TIPPETT: You propose quite a different relationship. You say, “God speaks to us. Our answers are our prayers.”
MR. PETERSON: Mm-hmm. Does that not make sense?
MS. TIPPETT: Yeah, it does. It’s just a whole different entry point to thinking about what’s happening in prayer to, I think, kind of a Western-Protestant approach that’s been there in many churches for a while.
this resonated so deeply it almost made me want to rethink christianity. (almost lol!) it made me think several things. if prayer is about listening more than about speaking:
- so much of the grandstanding prayer that was/is done in christian institutions is wrong. also, as someone who got to be good at (and proud about) praying out loud, i actually really hated that type of showing off, which is really what it was. and this totally flips that on its head. and that makes me feel a lot better. what would it have been like in all those moments if group prayer was about group listening in silence?
- all the asking for stuff i/people did is the wrong approach. again, that makes me feel so much better! i know there are bible verses about praying being asking (which i’ve seen and probably even used myself as a citation), but there are probably just as many verses that say the opposite. and also, asking something doesn’t mean talking the whole time and then saying bye!
- that makes prayer a lot more aligned with meditation! #feelsgood
MS. TIPPETT: You wrote in The Pastor, your new memoir, you spoke to the phenomenon I’m talking about — we’re talking about how the Psalms of the Hebrew Bible bring every human aspect into the light, even the worst. You talk about crowds and you said, “Classically, there are three ways in which humans try to find transcendence….through the ecstasy of alcohol and drugs, chemically-induced transcendence and recreational sex, and through the ecstasy of crowds.” And you said, “Church leaders frequently warn against the drugs and the sex, but at least, in America, almost never against the crowds.” There’s something about the moment we inhabit, I think even globally, that that feels very resonant and psychologically astute.
i mean… there is so much yes here. i love how he just talks about people’s search for transcendence as a given! and also that the church under-warns us about the crowd aspect. i think so much of that is how and why things like mega churches (hey, joel osteen) and hillsong united/the passion conferences are so popular and feel so counter to their stated intentions (maybe this is all confirmation bias, but it still feels right! >_>).
anywho, thanks eugene and krista (and all other involved parties) for this conversation. it gave me some new perspectives that i really needed in my journey right now.
words / writing / post-processing
327w / 11min / 9min