Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Pray - Part 6 : Anthropology of Prayer

Theology is what you think about God. Anthropology is what you think about man - human beings that is, both man and woman. What you think about man affects your prayers as much as what you think about God.

I am indebted to the Chinese theologian Watchman Nee for teaching me Biblical anthropology. Nee says that scripture teaches that man is tripartite - composed of three parts: body, soul and spirit. He gets this idea from such passages as I Thessalonians 5:23 "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

This is different from the classic Catholic and Protestant teaching, which says that man is a duality of body and soul. They borrowed that idea from Greek philosophy.

Maybe it doesn't really matter that much. But it helps me to picture these three parts as I pray. I imagine my body as a temple, patterned after the Biblical temple and tabernacle, as the apostle taught: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"

The Biblical tabernacle was composed of three parts - the outer court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The outer court was where the bodies of the animal sacrifices were offered to God. The two inner recesses brought one increasingly closer to the presence of God.

I could go into the symbolism of the two inner sanctums (I love details like the table of showbread, the menorah, the altar of incense and the ark of the covenant), but that is probably too much information for most folks. What is important is that you take your own inner journey into the body, through the soul and into the recesses of the spirit.

You are familiar with your body with its five senses. The soul is what we call our personalities, composed of intellect, emotion and will. It is what we normally mean by the word "I." It is our ego. (The Greek word for I is ego.)

The spirit is the innermost part of us. Our spirit is the holy of holies of our earthly bodies. The spirit is the inner I. All three parts are I. We are a unity of body, soul, and spirit. But we often recognize only the body and soul and miss the most important part of us - the spirit.

The spirit has its faculties also: intuition, conscience and communion. It is spirit like the Holy Spirit is spirit, except ours is a human spirit on loan from God. It is the breath of God that gives us life - breathed into us at creation. At death "the spirit returns to God who gave it" as Solomon said. At conversion the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our spirit. In our spirit we have communion with God's Spirit.

To commune with God's Holy Spirit, we must enter into the chamber of our human spirit. Flesh cannot partake of the Kingdom of God. Only spirit can know Spirit. "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." Prayer is the inward journey into our heart of hearts to commune with the Heart of God.

It takes some practice, but you can find the way. As you pray, go deeper than the body. Go deeper than soul. Leave your ego behind, and "pray in the Spirit." There you will enjoy all the "fruits of the Spirit." There you will learn of God "not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." There you will meet God.

No comments:

Post a Comment