Sunshine and Showers: prayer's beautiful messiness
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Prayer is one of the things we do as followers of Jesus to communicate with God. It is one of the twelve core commitments of A Methodist Way of Life, a way we respond to the gospel of God’s love in Christ and live out our discipleship in worship and mission.
Prayer is wonderful and frustrating. Not everyone finds it easy. This is the reality of prayer, but sometimes it feels like we must be doing something wrong.
Part of the problem is that prayer is riddled with paradoxes. It doesn’t always make sense in a simple way. Different aspects of it can be contradictory and yet true. For example, the Bible makes confident claims that God can heal people. And yet, we regularly pray for people who are unwell, and nothing seems to happen.
This sort of paradox can give us what psychologists call cognitive dissonance: that unpleasant feeling when we believe mutually incompatible things. People naturally want to reduce this discomfort. One way is to oversimplify and ignore one side and push into the other: ‘God always heals if we pray,’ or, ‘there’s no point praying for healing.’ Another strategy is to avoid praying. Either way, our prayerful connection to God suffers.
This course aims to explore six of these paradoxes. It aims to encourage us to keep praying, and to resist the temptation to jump to one pole of the paradox or the other. Good news can appear when we embrace the mystery and give it space to breathe.