Jesus also said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and you go to that friend in the middle of the night. Imagine saying, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread because a friend of mine on a journey has arrived and I have nothing to set before him.’ Imagine further that he answers from within the house, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up to give you anything.’ I assure you, even if he wouldn’t get up and help because of his friendship, he will get up and give his friend whatever he needs because of his friend’s brashness. And I tell you: Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. To everyone who knocks, the door is opened.” -Luke 10:5-10
Tomorrow night I will be on a panel to discuss how Christians relate to the use of guns.* Preparing for this discussion reminded me of the teaching of Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann. Brueggemann says we have so much violence in our country because we have forgotten how to pray. He doesn’t mean that we’ve forgotten the words to “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” or even the Lord’s Prayer, which in the Luke 10 passage above, Jesus has just taught his disciples. It’s not that we have forgotten how to say “God is great, God is good, let us thank God for our food.” What Brueggemann specifically means is that we have forgotten how to pray like our ancestors prayed in the ancient Psalms. We have lost the spiritual practice of praying out of our lament and our fear and anger.
The Psalms give us shocking prayers like: Rise up and take your vengeance, O God! How long will these wicked fools win? (Psalm 94). The only safe place to take our desire for protection, our anger against an enemy, or even our desire for retribution, is to God. These human emotions have to have a place to go that is not harmful to others. We have to be able to release them somewhere. As long as our prayers to God remain polite and benign, those feelings are in us, building up. Have you ever prayed a prayer so angry, so full of curses, so overwhelmed by raw emotion, that you would be embarrassed for anyone but God to hear? If not, you may be missing out on some of the best gifts of prayer. And you and I may be more violent in spirit than we realize, with all of that still in us. Gandhi’s definition of violence was “any time we impose our will on another.”
When Jesus is teaching on prayer in Luke 10, he tells the parable of a friend knocking on the door of his neighbor’s house, asking for bread in the middle of the night. He says it’s the friend’s “brashness” that compels his request to be answered. The New International Version of the Bible translates brashness as “shameless audacity.” Jesus describes prayer as “shameless audacity?” Yes. We pray our completely socially unacceptable words and feelings, we bring it all to God, yes, even our violent feelings, and teach others to do the same. We take our will and audaciously hand it over to God’s will before our will abuses anyone. People of the Jesus Way, let us be sure we are praying shamelessly, so that God may set us free to be peacemakers in our beautiful, broken world.