Prayer and a Congregation's Spiritual Passion

Lobsterman in a Storm

There’s an old story about a Maine Lobsterman who was caught in a bad storm at sea when the engine on his boat suddenly quit. Anxiously he fiddled trying to restart it. All the while, he heard the waves crash upon the rocky shore. Soon, he’d be dashed to bits. He prayed, “Lord, I have never asked you for anything in the past. If you rescue me this one time, I promise not to be bothering you again in the future.” 

    The passionate thing about Spiritual Passion is that we expect a lot of things out of our relationship with God. People with low Spiritual Passion expect God to bail them out of some of their jams. People with high Spiritual Passion expect every crisis to intensify their relationship with God. They pray in good times and bad, as if they expect God to hear and do the thing that raises the spiritual stakes. It is an easy and safe thing to pray for good luck. It is a passionately risky thing to pray for God to manifest himself in real world events.

    When a young person enlists to be a soldier, he or she expects the army to provide room, board, transportation, and the appropriate weaponry for their combat duties. Expectations flow in both directions between soldiers and their commanders. The closer a unit is to the front, the more intense the level of expectation. The general expects the troops to be courageous, utilize their training, respond intelligently to a changing battlefield, and if need be, sacrifice their lives. The soldiers ask that their lives not be wasted, that their training be sufficient for their duties, and that rations will arrive when needed. Soldiers with passion, do not pray to be neglected or left aside while others fight.

    Being a disciple of Christ involves a similar exchange of expectations. Passionate disciples pray that their lives will have meaning. Whether they are laity or clergy, they pray to understand God’s calling on their lives and to be spiritually equipped for that vocation. They do not pray to be spared trouble, but for the courage to live for God in all circumstances. The spiritual formation of disciples is the primary task of every congregation. This cannot be done without teaching people to pray with expectation.

    Praying with expectation is not about expecting God to magically give us what we ask for; its about believing that God wants to build a more intense relationship with us through prayer and His response. Congregations with high Spiritual Passion see a relationship between their prayers and real world outcomes.