Cascade Church Portland

Contemplative Practices:: A Story of Prayer

March 11, 2019

Prayer is weird. 

I've heard enough stories about voices, visions, physical sensations and trances to know that prayer creates some real oddities. Even though I like to think of myself as a person who can accept the testimony of others while reserving judgement, I rarely do a good job of it. I think I know why.

There was a time in my life where people sharing spiritual experiences was an exercise in asserting spiritual dominance.

Had a crazy vision of swans swimming in the ocean and delivering fish to babies? You were a present day Joseph! You might as well get outfitted for that technicolor dream coat. 

The voice of God told you personally to go tell that stranger that you've seen them surrounded by an orange light? You're probably the next great prophet, in the lineage of Elijah and Elisha. 

These stories were shared at times with me to highlight a spiritual superiority that they had. It caused me to doubt my own relationship with God and deeply desire some kind spirituality oddity to call my own. I was stuck in a cycle of doubting and desiring weird spiritual moments. 

While I've let go of a desire for unexplained spiritual experiences in prayer, I haven't let go of my doubt. I still hold onto a resistance to hearing and believing in the oddness of spiritual experience, even when the person sharing it doesn't do so from a place of power over my experiences. 

It's strange to have so much resistance in the way that prayer has worked in someone else's life. We project our doubt onto other people's experiences and can even cause them to doubt or hide their experiences. I wonder if experimenting in prayer can help us all be more generous in our acceptance of the oddness of faith, without prioritizing it over the experiences of others. Let each person share what they've heard, seen, not heard and not seen in a way that is excited for the diversity of our paths to Christ.