Where Prayer Becomes Real

Where Prayer Becomes Real (BakerBooks, 2021)

Kyle Strobel and John Coe recently coauthored Where Prayer Becomes Real: How Honesty with God Transforms Your Soul.  Kyle serves as professor of spiritual theology and formation at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.  John Coe ministers at the same school as professor of spiritual theology and philosophy.  First, as Romans 8:26 tells us, we don’t know how to pray as we should.  But this doesn’t mean we should despair or stop praying.  Rather, prayer presents an invitation to embrace God’s love in the truth of who you really are.  For when you speak the truth of your soul to God, He loves you in the deepest places of your heart.  However, prayer often sounds good as an ideal, yet feels bad and confusing in reality.  Prayer, though, isn’t a place to be good.  It’s a place to be honest.

Furthermore, Kyle and John view mind wandering during prayer as a gift.  Because mind wandering reveals the deep truth within us – which God already knows.  In addition, by faith Jesus calls us out of hiding to pray honestly about the truth in our hearts.  Above all, God is greater than your heart.  Since He knows everything, we have nothing to lose.  Therefore, we must ground ourselves in the good news of prayer, not merely learn new prayer techniques.  Most significantly, our assumptions about who God is, as well as the kinds of things He will and will not do, deeply shape our lives with Him.  Also, our expectations when God seems distant and our soul’s punctured throw us back on ourselves and our resources.  Instead of turning us toward God.

The Psalms serve as a key training ground for our calling to pray – a place where prayer becomes real.  And what God sees He wants us to pray.   In His grace, Jesus receives us as we are – and He refuses to leave us there.  But as we seek to be faithful, like the psalmists, we find ourselves wrestling with God.  Also, we realize that God wants to hear all that is in our hearts.  Thus, the Psalms, the inspired prayers of God’s people, teach us how to talk to God in the varied seasons of our spiritual lives.  Hence, we must intend to be with the Lord.  However, our contrary habits and intentions of the heart commandeer this intent.  To intend to be with God means to actually show up in His presence.  Rather than use God to have life on your terms.

Finally, God calls us to be present to Him.  That enables us to be present to others.  Because God makes Himself present in the deepest  and most profound ways possible.  Consequently, Kyle and John describe where prayer becomes real:

“The struggle to lay down our will to embrace God’s will is the struggle to pray like Jesus.  What we mustn’t do is simply affirm God’s will to stop the struggle from beginning in the first place.  It is too easy to say, ‘God is God, and he will do what he wants’ without actually engaging him deeply about what this does in our hearts.”

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Dave Henning

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