Prayer, Part 2


This is the second of three parts I will be posting on prayer. The last part will  follow  next two Sunday, the first part  is available in the archive. As with anything I post here, I would be very interested in your feedback and thoughts.


Quadrant 2:

The second quadrant, talking to God with the spirit, obviously contains that controversial phenomenon known as “speaking in tongues” or glossolalia.  It is, happily, outside the scope of this present essay to consider whether this form of prayer is an essential sign of the “baptism of the Spirit” (or even the validity of such an experience).  I shall only make a few remarks about it.

Firstly, as with all forms of prayer, the rule should be: if it helps you, use it, if it doesn’t, lay it aside, at least for now.  This is not to say that we should not persevere at times in a form of prayer that is hard or does not seem to be getting us anywhere, but such perseverance should come because we “know” that we should (though we may not know how we know).  It may be at the suggestion of a Spiritual Director or from a sense of the Spirit’s leading, but lacking such assurance I do not believe we gain anything by forcing ourselves to continue any practice.

Secondly, I do believe, as Paul taught, that this form of prayer is mostly for individual use and only to a minor extent for use in a corporate setting.  I confess that I pray this way, at times quite often, and I find it can bring a great sense of relief—the feeling that I have been able to express some deep feeling (be it of praise or intercession) that I could not put into words I understood.  Is this “language” of the Spirit real? Does it matter? I think not.  A large part of the meaning in spoken language is conveyed in things other than words and grammar, things like stress, speed, “body language”, and all of these are present when we speak in tongues.  Surely God can hear these things just as well as when I speak in English.

I have been in churches where “tongues” are used in the corporate setting, usually in conformity with Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians about interpretation.  It has struck me quite often, however, that the “interpretation” didn’t seem to match the “tongue”.  Mostly such interpretations are prophetic, but there is nothing in scripture to indicate that we should expect this.  My own opinion (and here I am quite willing to be proven wrong) is that God is being very gracious at such times.  I suspect there are prophets who are unsure of their own gift and so will not speak on their own initiative but feel alright to give the message as an interpretation.  That is, God is using the tongue speaker (who may be expressing praise) as a goad to prod the prophet.

I don’t want to leave the impression, however, that tongues are the only form of prayer in this quadrant.  I suspect that some liturgical prayer belongs here too.  If someone feels led to pray using a particular liturgy that they do not fully comprehend are they not also praying without the understanding? True, the goal here is to come to understanding through practice, but at least at first we must place such prayer here.

So now our diagram looks like this:

Quadrant 2

Quadrant 2

Quadrant 3:

Now we come to the third quadrant—listening to God with the understanding.  It is here one encounters disciplines like “Lectio Divina”, Holy Reading.  This form of prayer (which is very old) uses the slow reading of scripture to open the heart to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It is, in a sense, a sort of guided meditation where the “guide” is a combination of the chosen passage of scripture and the Spirit.  Indeed, all meditation belongs here (I mean all Christian meditation.  Eastern or transcendental meditation seeks to go beyond the understanding and would thus, if we were to accept it, belong in quadrant four).  The old monastic discipline known as recollection also belongs here.

God will always talk to us when we listen, but we must be ready to hear what He actually wants to say and not just what we want Him to say! Often we come seeking guidance or wanting understanding of some situation and maybe God will give us that, but maybe not.  We believe we will understand all that happens, but we are not promised that we will attain this understanding in this life.  There are things that we will only see when we get our new 20-20 hindsight in the regeneration.  But in the meantime God is not silent; If He declines to explain or give us explicit guidance, He will nonetheless speak words of encouragement, hope, or love.  Even in His silence He speaks, for it is at such times we learn the strength of the faith He has given us.

So now we can fill in the third quadrant:

Quadrant 3

Quadrant 3


In the last part, I’ll look at quadrant 4, probably the most alien quadrant to most of us, and make some final remarks.




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One Response to “Prayer, Part 2”

  1. The Supremacy of language, heaven, god, and society « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality Says:

    […] Prayer, Part 2 ( […]

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