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Reading Before Praying
Photo: Brian Whit
“I have not placed reading before praying because I regard it more important, but because, in order to pray aright, we must understand what we are praying for.”

A friend recently sent me this quote by Angelina Grimke, a U.S. abolitionist and feminist, and I've been thinking about it ever since. This important quote highlights the necessity of understanding the gospel within a context. It is important to resist the temptation to believe there is a context-free gospel. This freedom from context is a myth of modernity. Even Jesus was incarnated in a context.

Eating, Walking, Talking

Once you understand the importance of context to understanding the good news of God, you can move on to realize the missionary importance of eating in local restaurants, walking on the sidewalks of your city, and talking to your neighbors. Equally important is reading the newspaper or other sources of news about your city in particular.

So, I really love this statement because for me it talks both about a Christian way of seeing the world and a "worldly" way of praying. To read first and then pray, or to walk our streets and then pray is to pray with our eyes open and our minds engaged. It is to bear upon our hearts the needs of our world and then bring those needs before God. Put in the negative, it is to avoid the characteristically Christian way of praying in the modern world - to pray in the abstract. We don't live in an abstract world and we don't worship an abstract God. The concreteness of our world and the God who created it begs for a life of prayer that is deeply connected to the reality all around.

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By Ryan Bell. Center for Metropolitan Ministries. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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