By Nathan Brockman
If Walter Wink had his way, the time-honored Episcopalian practice of prayer-mumbling would be replaced by angry, impolite commands that give God precisely what God wants. He detailed his “persistent” prayer at Trinity’s Spiritual Formation Summit.
Walter Wink, professor of Biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary, got off to a “jumpstart” in his healing ministry: on his first try, he prayed over a woman’s uterine tumor, big as an orange. Days later, the biopsy report was returned: “It’s gone,” said the doctor.
Would he have success convincing a roomful of Episcopalian parish leaders, many of whom cast dubious glances toward healing prayer, of its benefit?
Strip away the theology and it was coaching advice for a linebacker: be aggressive, be angry, etiquette is for the birds.
“Rise Up!” he shouted.
“Rise Up!” shouted the audience like a giddy mob.
Wink detailed the theological underpinnings of healing prayer that can gird all Christian’s lives. He dove backward into time, first making a case for healing prayer, pointing out that half of Mark’s first ten chapters concern healing.
More importantly, he reminded the audience of twin parables found in Luke: In the “Importunate Neighbor,” one neighbor demands food from another. In The Unjust Judge,” a widow demands vindication from a judge. The message, Wink says, is clear: be persistent in your demands.
Jesus insists that we “persevere in our prayer,” he said.
In this light, the Lord’s Prayer becomes a litany of holy directives. Take the word "hallowed" (as in the prayer’s “hallowed be thy name”). Who is doing the hallowing? he asked. Linguists believe the Greek origin of the word carried a sense of the imperative.
“We are commanded by God to command God,” said Wink. “It’s a feedback loop.” When we say “hallowed be thy name,” we are in fact saying “God, be God. Show the world you’re the real thing.” It applies throughout the prayer, from “Give us this day our daily bread,” to “Forgive us our sins,” to “Lead us not into temptation.”
Sometimes—or perhaps many times—prayers, our demands, go unanswered. What then?
Wink offered two answers. “You can ask for anything as long as you can take no for an answer.” However, unlike the New Testament’s case for “aggressive prayer,” Jesus “doesn’t seem to have dealt with unanswered prayer.”
This audience, however, was satisfied at the end of Wink’s talk to stand, raise their hands, and shout with him the Lord’s Prayer.
Posted on Trinity News May 10, 2002