I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Praying Like Jesus

I just finished a very good book that I would like to tell you about. It is Praying Like Jesus by James Mulholland. I first learned of Mulholland in conjunction with this year's Revival program in New York. Before I knew his name, I was dimly aware of his work as the co-author of the books If Grace is True and If God is Love. That is, I was aware of the books and their titles and of the rising of Christian Universalism and celebrated their presence in the wake of the slow retreat of Christians from Unitarian Universalism. I, however, hadn't read the books and, frankly, "Grace" and "God" still sit on my bookshelf awaiting the advent of spare time that I most likely will not have any time soon.

Praying Like Jesus, however, called to me. I have been giving some serious thought to my prayer life. When Mulholland talks about the "Prayer of Jesus," the focus of the book, he means what most of us call the "Lord's Prayer" or "Our Father". I, like many people pray the Lord's Prayer (with "trespasses") every day. It is also part of the prayer I say about fifteen minutes before I preach on Sunday. During that time I also pray for my congregation and that I will do a good job for them and for God. We also pray the prayer during the service, itself.

This prayer--the prayer of Jesus--is a big part of my life for something so short. In fact, my entire spiritual discipline is short. It has to be. For me, and (I suspect) for many others, there isn't enough time in the day for any of the nifty "home rituals" that I hear suggested from time to time. Still, in its brevity it must be effective, too.

The book is also short. It is effective in that Mulholland has chosen an effective subject. Additionally, there is a conversation going on. This book is meant in part to be a response to another work The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson. That prayer can be found in 1 Chronicles 4:10. The prayer is fine enough, but the book is aparently part of the ever-popular prosperity gospel that many Americans and others wish were true. Who wouldn't want to be proserous, after all? Who wouldn't want to enlist God to aid them in getting what they want? I am being rhetorical here. The fact is, religion is so much about our worldly needs as about God.

Mulholland attempts to show us how the Lord's Prayer reinforces such Christian virtues as compassion and forgiveness. He also points out the social justice implications of these virtues. The prayer helps us, in a simple way, to look outside our needs and to strive for the true transformation of ourselves and our world. Jesus' prayer does that. Mulholland just underlines what is already there.

I am grateful for this as, at times, I have forgotten that faith requires a certain amount of discipline to live well. I have forgotten the words of the Prayer of Jesus even as I have said them. I am grateful, therefore, to be reminded of their message and power. I recommend this for book discussions and, possibly Adult Religious Education. If I ever get my act together, perhaps I will take a crack at doing just that...