Has it ever occured to you to make a demand of God? Most of the time our prayers are asking God for something, at least if that’s okay with God. Could you imagine praying to God, “Make it so!”?
Noted scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, Walter Brueggemann reflected on what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” during a morning session at General Assembly. He claimed this prayer is a set of petitions: not requests but demands. “Bring your kingdom. Give us bread. Forgive us as we forgive. Keep us safe from evil.”
Praying in this way, Brueggemann says, is a recognition that we are not self-sufficient, that we need God, utterly and essentially. It’s like a hungry three year old who demands “Feed me NOW!” The three year old recognizes her very survival depends on the generosity of someone else. Even as we grow up and give up our dependent ways, we are always utterly dependent on God. We require God’s attention and generosity, in fact Jesus teaches his followers to demand it. Perhaps Jesus recognizes we have skin in the game; what matters in the world matters to us.
Jesus imagines we have the capacity to influence God. More often, we timidly pray, “We’ll God, if it’s your will. I don’t want to be demanding or appear impolite.” Brueggemann’s interpretation of Jesus’ instruction on prayer is decidedly unlike our usual WASP (white Anglo Saxon Protestant) approach. Jesus doesn’t instruct, “Ask nicely please,” like we instructed our own children. Jesus instructs, “Ask. Seek. Knock.” There are no qualifiers; just do it.
The generosity of God is like a stream of life giving water. Whenever any of us, steps into the flow, we interrupt, redirect and change the flow. Step into the stream of God and by your boldness you command the stream to alter its course. You share in commanding the flow of life giving water. Prayer is boldly commanding and demanding from God what we utterly require. Prayer may be other things too, but it is also this.