I have asked two of my fine students, Brittany Bennett and Nick Johnson — who are getting married this summer — and who have a ministry passion for issues of justice and the church, to take a look at Shane Claiborne’s and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals. I think their thoughts are spot-on.
Here’s the question: Does prayer imply action to work with God for the answer to that prayer? (As long as it is something we can do.) Put directly, does prayer for justice imply a commitment to work for justice?
Here are our thoughts on this new book, “Becoming the Answers to Our Prayers,” by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
The book “Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers” puts a new spin on prayer, making it about what we can give to God rather than what God can give to us. Claiborne and Hartgrove emphasize social justice and being the solution to the very things that we are asking God to answer. Prayer is taught as less of an inward act and more of an outward response to God. They look at the Lord’s Prayer, John 17, and Ephesians 1:15-23 as an outline of how to move prayer past just words and into movement that becomes the fulfillment of prayer. The focus is on us, the people of God, as the way in which God wants to answer our prayers. While we might be looking to some external or alternative answer to fix the problem, it is us that God wants to use.
We (Nick and Brittany), believe that it is easy to become completely dependent upon God to answer our prayers while we forget that we have the ability to answer our own prayers through Christ in us here and now. Shane and Jonathan do a good job of addressing this issue and giving an active solution. While this is an important and usually neglected conversation about prayer, it only covers one key understanding of prayer. We recognize a lot of situations and circumstances that don’t “fit” into this way of prayer. Things that are out of our control do require us to lean solely on God’s power. Prayer allows us to give God control in situations that are beyond our own abilities. To take this element of giving God control out of the equation doesn’t fully demonstrate prayer. So, we think that yes, Shane and Jonathan are right to couple prayer with action yet it cannot stand alone as the solution to all prayer. Prayer just like any other way of communicating with God is about a two way street. A place where we become the alternative solution through the Holy Spirit that lives in us while still keeping this in tension with the desperate need that we should have for God to show up in our lives.
We believe this a great book to read in contrast to a more traditional view of prayer. Claiborne and Hartgrove make it easy to follow and understand through the three main prayers they analyze.