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Sitting with the Trinity in Prayer

800px-angelsatmamre-trinity-rublev-1410There is a story in Genesis 18. It says,

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant” (TNIV).

The story is prefaced by saying that Israel’s God, Yahweh, was the one who met with Abraham under these great trees. He appeared to him, along with two angels, and told him that his wife, Sarah, would have a son. Abraham is immediately hospitable to these travelers.

Later church fathers would associate this scene with the Trinity. The image above was painted in the 15th century depicting this story. The hospitality Abraham shows the Lord here reminds me of the hospitality God shows us in prayer. He invites us to join Him, prepares a place for us, and sits with us.

John Drury, a seminary professor of mine, gave a devotional once that went like this.

To whom do we pray? To God our Father.

With whom do we pray? With Jesus, the risen Christ, who is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (and with us). Though we might say that Christ is in our hearts and present with His people when they gather, the creed says that He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. We join Christ’s conversation with the Father. When we start, we join Him. When we end, we know He continues to pray.

By whom do we pray? We pray by the Spirit. The Spirit testifies with our Spirit that we are sons of God. He lets us know that we belong in the conversation. And when we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Just as the Holy Spirit empowers us to live the Christian life, He also empowers us to pray in Christian ways.

The bottom line is that when we pray, we enter into the conversation God is having with Himself. We join Him in His life, and we can rest assured that God has allowed us to do this and welcomes us.

As you pray this week, try closing your eyes and imagining what it looks like for the Trinity to be in prayer together.

First, imagine God your heavenly Father, looking at you with love in His eyes, welcoming you as a father should welcome his child.

Now, see that there is someone sitting next to Him. You are not jealous that God has welcomed you to a place where another is. Your communion with your heavenly Father is not private. He welcomes you to pray alongside His Son, Jesus, who is praying things like, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,” and “Send workers into your harvest fields, Father.” The same compassion that led Him to the cross now leads Him to intercede. And then you hear Jesus praying for you, by name.

Finally, as you watch this scene and are overwhelmed by what is taking place, don’t say a word. Instead, listen to the Comforter gently nudge you to begin speaking. At first, you don’t know what to say. And so you pray simply the words of Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer. And then you find your footing. The Spirit smiles at you, pleased and encouraging you to pray.

What if this picture were what you thought of when you prayed tomorrow? And the next day?


Starting Over

What do you say after an almost-6-year hiatus from blogging? When I last wrote, my wife and I were moving from Wisconsin to Michigan. My pastoral experience was limited to two years of solo pastoring. 

Since then, my family has grown from the two of us to a family of five. We’ve been through the ups and downs of ministry in North Branch and we still love it here. I’ve received an MDiv from Wesley Seminary at IWU

I am still uncertain as to the purpose of this blog, what I’ll post, how often, etc. But you have to start somewhere, right? I think back to God creating humanity in His image. I get the feeling He did not say, “I don’t really have this figured out, but I have to start somewhere, right?” If anything, God’s words in Genesis 1:26-28 suggest He knew exactly what He was doing. He blessed humanity, told them to increase, and to rule over the created order, and gave them what they needed to accomplish just that by placing them in a garden where He would live with them. Out of relationship with their Creator, they would perfectly reflect His image into the created order. 

I love how Paul speaks of our own spiritual formation in Christ in Colossians 3:9-10: Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Part of what God is doing in me, and in us, is renewing us in knowledge in the image of our Creator. 

So while I don’t know exactly what I’ll post here–perhaps a mix of meditations on Scripture, theology, and the practice of spiritual formation for the local church–I know it will have something to do with what God is doing in me that I might better reflect His image in our world. It’s good to be back. 
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