"Naked Spirituality – A Life with God in 12 Simple Words"
Throughout 2019 our Playlists will explore a word from Brian McLaren’s book “Naked Spirituality.” For a deeper dive into Brian’s book, you can purchase it at Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Brian says, “When we call out for help, we are bound more powerfully to God through our needs and weaknesses, our unfulfilled hopes and dreams, and our anxieties and problems than we ever have been through our joys, successes, and strengths alone. Because this practice involves expanding our resource base beyond our own limited capacities, we can call it expansion. Because it involves making a plea for God’s help, we can call it petition as well. Whatever we call it, help represents a move from self-reliance to God-reliance, and that’s a step in the right direction.”
Pause for a moment and name an area of your life (it could be something that’s going on today) that needs help – a relationship, a situation at work, an upcoming decision that needs to be made.
Petition, Brian says, in its most general way, means prayers addressed to God by me and for me, and he describes how these kinds of prayers can mature in us. Listen to the first example he offers:
"My wife is angry or disappointed with me about something, so I pray that God will change her heart—that way, I won’t have to deal with whatever it is in me that’s bothering her."
Brian notes that as he has slowly matured his prayers have shifted more and more in this direction:
"Lord, my wife is upset with me. Please help me to understand what’s bothering her and to respond with compassion and love. And please help me to anticipate and meet her needs rather than frustrate her, as I often do.”
Can you hear the shift he’s describing as our prayers of "help" slowly mature? Brian says, “Immature petition tries to convince God to remake the world in our image for our convenience and ease, but mature petition asks God to remake us in God’s own image, so that we can expand our capacity to respond to the world as it is.”
Does anxiety get the best of you sometimes? We all suffer from it in some ways – I sure know I do. Later in this chapter Brian describes how we can begin with the word “help” when we’re feeling anxious and slowly move to more specific requests:
“So when we’re suffering from anxiety, we can begin by simply holding the word help before God, letting that one word bring focus to the chaos of our racing thoughts. Once we feel that our mind has dropped out of the frantic zone and into a spirit of connection with God, we can let the general word help go and in its place hold more specific words that name what we need, thereby condensing the cloud of vague anxiety into a bucket of substantial request. So we might hold the word guidance before God. Or patience. Or courage. Or resilience. Or boundaries, mercy, compassion, determination, healing, calm, freedom, wisdom, or peace.”
Let’s try and put this into practice.
Name a current small anxiety in your life (a recent conversation that left you frustrated, an issue at work, etc.) and translate it into a request.
Now name a current large anxiety in your life and translate it into a request.
Let’s end with this quote from Brian:
“Through this practice of expansion and petition, we discover something priceless: the sacred connection can grow stronger through, not in spite of, our anxieties, wounds, disappointments, struggles and needs. The Compassionate One is our gracious friend, and we don’t have to earn anything, deserve anything, achieve anything, or merit anything to bring our needs to God. We can come just as we are.”