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Wednesday 30 May 2012

Engaging the Powers.

Four quotations:

Intercession is spiritual defiance of what is, in the name of what God has promised.  Intercession visualizes an alternative future to the one apparently fated by the momentum of current contradictory forces.  It infuses the air of a time yet to be into the suffocationg atmosphere of the present.

History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being.  This is not simply a religious statement.  It is as true of the communists or capitalists or anarchists as it is of Christians.  The future belongs to whoever can envision in the manifold of its potentials a new and desirable possibility, which faith then fixes upon as inevitable.

All this about our role as intercessors in creating history is arrogant bravado unless we recognize that it is God rather than ourselves who initiates prayer, and that it is God's power, not ours, that answers to the world's needs.  We are always preceded in intercession.  God is always already praying within us.  When we turn to pray, it is already the second step of prayer.

Prayer in the face of the Powers is a spiritual war of attrition.  ...  In a field of such titanic forces, it makes no sense to cling to small hopes.  We are emboldened to ask for something bigger.  The same faith that looks clear-eyed at the immensity of the forces arrayed against God is the faith that affirms God's miracle-working power.  Trust in miracles is, in fact, the only rational stance in a world that is infinitely responsive to God's incessant lures.  We are commissioned to pray for miracles because nothing less is sufficient.  We pray to God, not because we understand these mysteries, but because we have learned from our tradition and from experience that God, indeed is sufficient for us, whatever the Powers may do.

All come from the Biblical scholar Walter Wink's amazing book Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Fortress Press, 1992). Wink died earlier this month, aged 76, after a long struggle with dementia.  In his American homeland he was a controversial figure - loved by many and loathed by others.  To me he was the person who first made me understand the political necessity of intercessory prayer. From him I learnt that prayer is a calling into being of an order of existence that refuses to allow evil and hurt to have a determining power over humanity. He inspired me pray as one who refuses authority to the powers of harm and despair, and to look to God's victory in all things - even when it's impossible to see it. He taught me to pray for a peaceful alternative, even when I can't voice what that alternative is. I thank God for Walter Wink's inspiration.  May he rest in that godly peace for which he taught us to long with prayerful passion.

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