Praying with the Church 2 – Praying with Jesus: Sacred Time, Sacred Term

These are reflections on Scot McKnight‘s book, Praying with the Church, that I wrote and shared with a small circles of friends in 2006. I’ve decided to publish them here only lightly edited. Since they are four years old, they don’t necessarily reflect exactly what I would say today, but they do accurately capture my reaction at the time.

This chapter starts with his self-identification as a ‘stubborn, low- church Protestant’. It includes this funny sentence: “If I can be shown that something is in the Bible, I’m all for it — except for things like greeting one another with a holy kiss or washing one another’s feet.” At least, I found it funny. On the serious side, Scot asks the following three questions.

How does Jesus want me to pray?

How did Jesus himself pray?

What did Jesus teach about prayer?

I have a hard time imagining better questions to ask about prayer. Scot then divides the lessons he has learned into four areas, two of which are in this chapter.

Sacred Time: Learning When to Pray

“Jesus prayed all the time.” That seems like an obvious statement when made, but I think we tend to overlook it. Scot opens with the emphasis that Jesus did pray alone in his Portiuncola. Constantly. All time is sacred and we are to honor the lengthy Christian tradition, realized in many different ways, of praying constantly. Paul’s exhortation to “pray without ceasing” can, and has been interpreted in two ways: a constant attitude of prayerfulness or devoting ourselves to the sacred rhythms of prayer. The bible and Jesus’ practice supports both, so Scot thinks (and I agree) that we should embrace both. That’s unusual for him. Having followed his thinking for some time now, he normally finds the option of choosing ‘both’ in biblical interpretation disingenuous at best. As a translator and scholar he adheres to the thought that most of the time when people say something, they have a specific meaning in mind. As such, when he says we should consider a text to carry two different interpretations, it catches my attention more than if someone else were to say the same thing.

Sacred Term: Learning What to Call God

Jesus’ prayers almost always begin with ‘Abba’. The use of the term itself or the intimacy with God that went with it was, contrary to some popular opinion, neither new nor unique in Jewish culture. However, Jesus’ emphasis on that term is distinctive and goes far beyond anything else. Further, he taught his followers to begin their prayers with Abba. For Jesus, that is the sacred name of God. “Prayer for Jesus is about calling God Abba.”

So we start with praying all the time and calling God Abba. “But there is more to Jesus’ own prayer life than praying alone — for Jesus was one in whom the ancient Israelite prayer traditions came alive.”

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2 Comments

  1. Posted July 17, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I’d be curious to hear more of what you meant at the end about Jesus being the one in whom the traditions came alive.

    Take care & God bless
    Anne …

  2. Posted July 17, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    That’s a quote from the book. It’s the last line of the chapter and as such is also something of a lead-in to the next chapter on sacred rhythms. The book intertwines biblical and historical information with Scot McKnight’s on experience over time. And the next chapter opens with the realization that dawned on him that Jesus actually participated in the life and worship of his people, including the Jewish practice of set prayers. So the Jewish traditions he studied for years came alive for him as he recognized that Jesus practiced them and then saw the connections between those Jewish traditions of prayer, Jesus’ teaching, the practice in the NT and very early (and continuing) church practice.

    At least, that’s how I understood it.

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