In March, just after the start of the war, I wrote a piece for our online edition, responding to the plethora of prayer headlines that cast prayer as a form of corporate consolation ("Seeking Solace in Time of Fear: Religious Leaders Tread Carefully To Soothe Worried Worshipers" is typical). I asked rhetorically, "Is anyone in these churches telling these journalists that they are missing the biggest story going on in these prayer meetings—that prayer actually changes things?"
Genuine prayer brings both comfort and discomfort, assurance and confusion, exhilaration and discouragement as we seek God's way for our lives and for the world. Prayer is not a means to getting comfortable but is a way of life for believers. And that's why we in the CT hallway gather each Monday morning at 10:15 to pray together. The prayer requests run the gamut, from thankfulness for safe journeys to healing for cancer to peace in the Middle East.
So hard-bitten, hard-drinking, cynical journalists we're not. Because prayer is an important part of all of our lives (though most of us would admit it's not as important as it should be!), I asked the editors to tell me about a prayer practice or book that energizes them, especially in times like these.
Ted Olsen: "One of my favorites is 2,000 Years of Prayer, compiled by Michael Counsell. It's organized by chronological theme (e.g., Celtic Christianity, Puritans, etc.) rather than strictly by chronology or subject, but the selections are excellent. In times of national crisis such as this one, I tend to do a lot of listening prayer. In times of personal crisis, all bets are off—I pray all sorts of ways."
Agnieszka Tennant: "Whenever I tell my spiritual director about an experience that moved me, to laughter or to tears, she says, 'That can be your prayer!' She's got an uncanny talent for helping me turn everything into a prayer—be it a pop love song, listening to David Whyte read his poems, or even moments of anxiety. Whenever I think of the war, I am weighed down by an oppressive silence. Following the advice of my director, I turn it into prayer. So I don't pray about the war with words: I sit before God, flip through the images of war in my mind, and sigh in silence."
Doug LeBlanc: "I don't agree with everything that appears on it, but Pray the News, a service of the Carmelites of Indianapolis, is about the most creative website I've ever seen devoted to prayer and current events."
Stan Guthrie: "Right now I'm reading and praying through the Psalms for my devotional times. Psalm 46 and other similar ones are particularly helpful in these days when we can no longer take our national and personal security for granted."
I have always found it much easier to write about prayer (with Jim Bell, I wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Prayer) and read about prayer (my all-time favorite is Belden Lane's The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, a study of apophatic, or imageless, prayer) than pray. I think that's why I like to be guided in my prayers with The Book of Common Prayer. It surprises me how often it puts into words exactly what I'd like to say to God.
Perhaps you'll find something in this hodge-podge that will deepen your prayer life. Or perhaps you have a practice or book you'd like to share with us. These days are too momentous to have to figure out things by ourselves.
Next month: The harrowing story of Martin and Gracia Burnham's kidnapping—and its lessons; books about heaven; and the annual CT Book Awards.
Copyright © 2003 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
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Prayer Warriors | E-mail newsletters are helping hundreds of thousands to pray about the war.
For more coverage on the current conflict, commentary and thought on just war, or Christian debate, see our CTWar in Iraq archive. For relevant articles on the war from news agencies around the globe, see CT's updated war links page.
A downloadable Bible study on the implications of war with Iraq is available at CurrentIssuesBibleStudy.com. These unique Bible studies use articles from current issues of Christianity Today to prompt thought-provoking discussions in adult Sunday school classes or small groups.
Recent Christianity Today articles and commentary on the current war with Iraq include:
Are Prayers in a Time of War Really About Comfort? | In part. But their main purpose is about much, much more than that. (March 28, 2003)
CT Classic: War Cry | As 1991's Gulf War began, a Christianity Today editorial said the church's best weapon was tearful prayer. (March 24, 2003)
CT Classic: Weeping over Baghdad | Desert Storm cost Iraq thousands of lives. At its conclusion, a Christianity Today editorial called for the church to deal with the living souls that remained. (March 21, 2003)
A Nation at War—And on its Knees | American Christians pray for peace, justice, and wisdom. (March 21, 2003)
Weapons of the Spirit | Regardless of their positions on Iraq, Christians have much they can do. (Feb. 25, 2003)
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