Sounds kind of warm and fuzzy, doesn't it? The harmony of biblical agreement lifts glorious choruses of prayer to our Father in heaven. We'll circle up, hold hands, sing Kum Bah Ya, get real about our shortcomings and needs, and then pray lofty words in reverent tones. The harmony of biblical agreement. There are nods, amens, scribbles on the prayer list, perhaps a Bible promise or two, hugs, tears, affirmations, and God be with you till we meet again.
And, the world is still a mess, often our little piece of it too. it's just another reality check to realize that most of us feel ineffective in our prayer lives. The latest Pew Research data indicates that 55% of Americans pray daily. That is a majority of us. What's the deal here? Does God no longer hear prayers or answer them? You know better than that. There's a better question. Could there actually be trip wires to this ideal of the harmony of biblical agreement? And, you know the answer to that one as well. Yes, there are definite stumbling points in that pursuit, things that hinder this prayer ideal. So, what are they?
Me, myself, and I, the unholy trinity of self, is the greatest trip wire to the harmony of biblical agreement in prayer. Sure, I can share prayer concerns with others, even find unity in many of the broader requests any of us would place before the Father. But, there are personal things---biases, preferences, opinions, likes and dislikes, and other subjective issues that tilt my deeper life concerns in my own direction. They can impede finding agreement with others.
Let me illustrate. Last year a neighbor and I decided we would prayer together
every week. Pause for some background. He's African-American, a strong
Christian, works in professional construction design, and usually votes Democratic. I've
got a mixed blood line---half lint head, and half red neck, share the Christian label, have
been a pastor for thirty-five years, and typically vote Republican. Each one of us
struggled to lay aside our personal leanings when we prayed, especially when we started
tripping over ourselves praying for the 2016 election. Self kept getting in the way.
Demographers warn of another egocentric trip wire that can skew our spiritual responses and even our agreement in prayer. Professional researchers call it the halo effect, our tendency for an impression created in one area to influence opinion in another area. That I have categorized myself as a Christian may make me think more highly of my prayer practices than attested by reality. Yes, setting aside my personal bent should be a natural for a professing believer. But, that's why its a trip wire. It's often unseen until an explosion of personal tastes makes havoc of my intended prayer agreement.
The answer isn't so perplexing. Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23, NIV). Self-denial is the first step of following Christ. The harmony of biblical agreement in prayer can only happen when the presence of Christ in our lives overpowers our instinctive self motivations and we can be united with others who have done the same.
Once again, the application of several Pauline verses fits well here---
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in
the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind,
having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish
ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let
each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others
Philippians 2:1-4, ESV
These verses have been in this blog every week for the past month or so. Why? They are verses that remind me of a leading impediment to my entire Christian life, witness, and influence, the trip wire of self in a world that so needs the harmony of biblical agreement and the example of disciples submitted to him, and to others.
The trip wire of self.
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