Having lived and walked amongst evangelicals for the better part of 20 years now and having identified myself as one of their number, I have come to this disturbing conclusion: as a people, we do not know how to pray.
Moreover, if I am being completely transparent, then I should clearly state that I also am an abject failure when it comes to knowing how to pray. Now there is a great deal more that could be said on this subject, but rather than addressing it as an academic matter, I have simply decided to share some written prayers from two new books that I am using in my own prayer life.
May the words of these fellow sojourners give voice to the cries of your heart, opening up new ways of talking to the One Who was Entitled to Everything, but Surrendered it All.
“Our Charter of Entitlement”
by Walter Bruggemann
We are mostly the kind of people who do well and
who mean well.
We know how to do what must be done and
we get up and do it.
We have a sense of our own worth and our capacity to perform.
We care for our children and our futures
and our good schools.
And after good schools come college
and learning and degree and profession
We sit in and enjoy our responsible entitlement that we have
But along with success and well-being,
we wish our children happy,
so we protect and extend adolescence;
we build barriers against ugliness and failure,
and struggle with too much work and stress.
We have and we treasure all the signs of entitlement,
all the props of affluence,
all the symbols of well-being.
How peculiar that we have it all and worry about
immigrants who might acquire some small part of our legacy.
In this moment of candor before you,
we step into that gap in our life,
between assured entitlement and the threat of immigrants
between our indulgence of our children and
the violence that mostly lacks shame.
Move us by your hovering that we may come to ourselves,
that we may notice the ways in which we are
far from home,
that we may reckon how we have betrayed
ourselves for quick fixes.
Give us the capacity to return to you,
to be welcomed home,
to be forgiven,
to be invited to dance,
and then to a fatted calf,
to receive it all as a gift from you.
As people of entitlement and violence, we converge with
we learn together how deeply in need we are;
receive us and move us that we may accept
your welcome to newness.
Return us to innocence,
even as we are frightened.
Exhibit to us your great simplicity among
our complex habits.
Call us at last by our right names
because we are yours.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Walter Bruggemann, “Our Charter of Entitlement” in Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville, Tennessee: Abington Press, 2008), 17-18.