In the life of advance and retreat, what I've called the "formissional life" in other places, prayer has a significant place. Anyone who wants to follow Jesus in this radical sojourn called discipleship and be formed and built around His mission to rescue the world must come to terms with a simple fact:
We have no clue how to do any of that.
Even Jesus, the divine son of God, shows us a model in the Gospels of spending time in prayer THEN engaging in miraculous, Kingdom-announcing actions. Luke tells us that "Jesus often withdrew into lonely places and prayed." (5:16) We can debate on who this was meant to benefit - the disciples watching Him or Jesus Himself - but my thought is the prayer had a dual benefit. Jesus was teaching and being taught, revealing and receiving revelation, interceding and crying out on His own behalf.
If we're going to be formissional people, becoming like Christ "for the sake of others," we would be well served to shape our prayer around that goal.
Here are four key "requests" that align our prayer with the formissional life:
- Remind me: I am constantly reminded, when teaching on the ten commandments (Ex. 20) that God starts off a passage commanding His people with a reminder - "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt." God does not ask His people for obedience outside of relationship. We need to pray that God would bring us back to those moments where He reached out to us, covered our shoulders in a blanket of grace and healed us. We also need to be reminded of conversations and experiences recently where we struggled to live "by the Spirit" (Gal. 5) so that we can learn what God is doing in us. Memory is a thorough and healthy educator in our life with Christ. The best way to do this remembering might be to keep a journal listing experiences and activities from the day before and pray that God would remind you of where He was present in those times.
- Convict me: The time of retreat, in the sense of a daily re-engaging with God, is a time of "clearing the air" with Him. We ask for Him to reveal shortcomings, weaknesses, and areas that need to be surrendered so that we can begin to see clearly what is coming next. Psalm 51 asks for forgiveness and that God would "renew a right spirit within...". A new spirit is key to moving from personal engagement with God to missional engagement with the world. If we're blinded by our own failures, we'll miss the missional paths opening up before us.
- Change me:In this part of the formissional prayer, we ask for transformation. We ask for God to "renew our minds" so that we can see His will (Rom. 12:2). It is critical to ask God to change our minds, both by giving us new things to think about and through replacing the old dead material hanging on our mental hard drives.The formissional life is built on thinking the things of God for the sake of the world, which leads to dreaming the things of God for the world, which is necessarily followed by our motivations leading us to bring those dreams to pass in the world for the sake of the Kingdom.
Pray that God would take some of the thoughts in your mind and replace them with healthier, humbler, more disciplined thought patterns. What goes on in our minds changes what happens in our hearts and in our hands.
- Send me: Pray for clarity on where God is working today. You have unique gifts and abilities, and there are works prepared in advance for you to do (Eph. 2:10), so ask where those opportunities lie in the cosmos of your day. If you meet with a small group, consider practicing the formissional prayer together and at this point lay a hand on the person's shoulder next to you and pray a "sending" prayer for them that they may find their way to the work ahead of them.
This formissional rhythm of prayer will break us out of simply self-improvement and into a life where the Spirit of God transforms us so the world may be changed. So that hope and life may spring up in dead places. I pray this prayer leads you into the God-fostered formissional life today.