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How Should We Pray to God? | A Christian Witch Talks Prayer, Confirmation, and Ted Loder's Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers For the Battle

It seems everyone has their own personal preference on how to talk to our God.


Christian Witch, Witchcraft, Mysticism, Magic, Crystals, Bible, Incense, Folklore, Sara Raztresen, God, Spirituality, Tarot, Occult, Evangelical, Demons, Sin, Danger, Possession, Idolatry, Discernment, Church, Solomonic Magic, Occult, Left Hand Path, Demonolatry, Demonology, Corinthians, Paul

So, this past weekend had quite the activity. It was a gorgeous weekend for the beach in my little corner of New England: eighty degrees, hardly a cloud in the sky, horseshoe crabs and other critters abounding in the sands and waves. Of course I spent this weekend in the way any creative wants to: writing in the company of my fellow writer friends, braving those still-technically-spring waters, and even... getting confirmed into the Episcopal church!


Yes, it's true: I finished the final sacrament that marks one as a member of the universal Church (the body of believers in Jesus). To quote directly from the Episcopal church's official website, Confirmation is:


The sacramental rite in which the candidates "express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop" (BCP, p. 860).

While all people really need, technically, is to be baptized, often, baptism happens as a baby and therefore takes away people's choice to really speak for themselves as to whether one wants to be Christian or not. Back in the day, where the only option was the Catholic church, it was assumed everyone was and would be Christian—and that babies who were unbaptized would get stuck in purgatory forever—so people got their kids baptized as infants to protect them in a world where infant mortality was unfortunately pretty high. It's a tradition that still continues in Catholic churches, and that's how I grew up: Catholic, with a Slovene Catholic mom who would hear nothing about "wait until Sara's older and let her decide." Tradition demanded I get baptized as a baby when I had no idea what anything even meant.


And I'm fine with that, obviously, because I'm still Christian. However, there are many folks who now sit frustrated that they never got that option, especially as their churches drive them away from the faith with callous, exclusionary, and regressive attitudes in a modern, progressive world. I get it, and I'm sorry to those folks who never wanted to enter that covenant. (There are many discussions of how to undo a baptism, at least, though me personally, I think the best way to go would be to directly confront God and say "let me out of this; I didn't enter it willingly." But that's just my two cents.)


Anyway, confirmation—and that laying on hands of the bishop, that blessing and reception of power from the Holy Spirit—is some very Pentecost-coded stuff, as we see how the disciples and Apostles come fully into that Holy Spirit power after Jesus ascends. I got confirmed not only to "seal myself in," basically, and confirm that I don't plan on giving up on this religion or this God, but also to fully accept the gifts of the Spirit that make Christian magic and miracle-casting possible in the first place. (And boy, was it a magical day! Being anointed with blessed cinnamon oil while a high-rank spiritual leader directly prays over you, in full view of a church audience sending all their well wishes your way? Magic attack and defense up +10).


But not only did I get confirmed: I also got a couple really sweet gifts with the rest of the confirmands afterwards. We received a little succulent, which is great, as I love having my succulents and cacti acting as wards and spiritual housekeepers, but we also got a prayer book: Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle by Ted Loder.


A Quick Look at Guerrillas of Grace


So, anyone who knows me knows how I feel about having battle-themed language in Christian books and other such things. It gives me the ick immediately, and I pretty much instantly think about Kristin Kobes du Mez's book, Jesus and John Wayne, for that tendency that especially Evangelical Christianity has in trying to hyper-masculinize and hyper-militarize a God who went out of His way to die, to sacrifice Himself, for the greater good. Yes, this is a God that has leveled armies and flattened cities, but He's also one who has turned the other cheek, forgiven and loved the lowest of us, and shown us a liberating path forward, not backwards. So I was a little suspicious about this book as I looked at the cover.


However, this Tod fellow seems pretty cool. In the back of the book, we discover our author here, who passed in 2021, was a very upstanding minister, one who brought the First United Methodist Church of Germantown into the fold of liberation theology: all the theology based in social progress and politics, human rights activism, artistic expression, and more. His church was even one of the first few leading the push to end apartheid in South Africa! It looks like his life was dedicated to the service of others, and that's a beautiful thing.


And there's something Tod himself says about his choice for the title of this book that made it not only make a lot more sense to me, but also made me appreciate it fully:


Why would anyone call a book of prayers Guerrillas of Grace? The two images, "guerrillas" and "grace," seem to be an unlikely, if not contradictory, conjunction. And yet... are they really?


Somewhere I read a description of poets as "guerrillas of beauty." I suppose it is fitting that I can't find the article, or even identify it, but the phrase struck me and took captive a piece of my imagination, as if demonstrating the power of the image. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say the phrase liberated a piece of my imagination. I began to see "guerrillas of beauty" as applying to the risky and exciting struggles of people attempting to live out their faith in more free and joyful ways in the midst of difficult, resistant, often even oppressive circumstances. I began to understand the phrase as applying well to people who pray and to the prayers they utter...


Jesus was the preeminent guerrilla of grace; he confronted repressive institutions and liberated captive minds and hearts with hi words and his life. A prime weapon in his effort was prayer, and it is little wonder that he taught his disciples to pray (1).


Tod says yet more, describing the very function of a guerrilla as one of the common folk, the average person that takes a stand against the unjust for the sake of their fellows, no matter what great powers try and stomp them down. There's such a beauty in that idea: that we might not be some hyper-militarized patriarchal dream of masculine fighting, but instead a spiritual resistance group, an unbreakable force focused on peace, justice, mercy, and love for all. And after reading through some of these prayers, I gotta say—what I cheekily called a "spell book" (because let's be honest: prayers are absolutely spells, the spoken, chanted, or sung part of spells or simply cantrips all in their own) was eye opening in the way it approached the concept.


So how do we pray, then?


How to Pray: Speaking From the Heart Unfiltered


It was Jesus who gave us a prayer blueprint that still serves us so very well. When we're at a loss for words, when we don't know where to start or how to phrase it, Jesus's teachings in Matthew 6:9-13 give us the boilerplate that can get us connected, open, and ready to simply sit with God until we do find whatever other words we need:


9 “This, then, is how you should pray:


“‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.


I love this prayer! It does everything you'd want it to do: calls God's attention, praises Him, asks for blessings and protection from evil, and reaffirms what we're supposed to be doing here on this magical floating rock in the heavens. I always use this to get my mind right before tarot, spellwork, or anything else spiritual that I need some hard focus for. It's my replacement for that "casting a circle" thing some witchy traditions do.


But what I noticed as I went flipping through this prayer book is that, just as Tod was talking about poets and poetry, these prayers, too, read like poetry These prayers aren't the monotonous, dry things you might expect to repeat over and over again on a rosary, nor are they the short and quaint types that you might embroider on a pillow. In fact, one thing I notice about them is that while many are sweet and pretty, many are also raw, personal, and downright gritty. I mean, take a peek at just one of them, titled How Shall I Pray? (63):


How shall I pray?

Are tears prayers, Lord?

Are screams prayers,

or groans,

or sighs,

or curses?

Can trembling hands be lifted to you,

or clenched fists

or the cold sweat that trickles down my back

or the cramps that knot my stomach?

Will you accept my prayers, Lord,

my real prayers,

rooted in the muck and mud and rock of my life,

and not just my pretty, cut-flower, gracefully arranged bouquet of words?

Will you accept me, Lord,

as I really am,

messed-up mixture of glory and grime?

Lord, help me!

Help me to trust that you do accept me as I am,

that I may be done with self-condemnation,

and self-pity,

and accept myself.

Help me to accept you as you are, Lord:

mysterious,

hidden,

strange,

unknowable;

and yet to trust

that your madness is wiser

than my timid, self-seeking sanities,

and that nothing you've ever done

has really been possible,

so that I may dare to be a little mad, too.


Like, whoa. That struck me the first time I read it. I'd randomly flipped the book open and landed on it, and it felt important, because it raises the question: are these things prayers? Do they count? Does God understand us even when we're just sitting there in a heap before Him in our own home, crying and letting it all out? I'd imagine so, if the Bible says that God knows what we want and need before we even ask for it (Matthew 6:7-8). And that's funny, in a way, because the sermon on the day I got this book, that confirmation sermon, was all about how we unknowingly, in our apparent shame about our human condition—the human need for laughter and fun and expression—try to protect God from our humanness. How we try to make church this somber, silent place, where there's no fun allowed and no "frivolous" expressions of joy to spare, even though laughter, joy, and song are the fruits of heaven. How, when Jesus (God incarnate) tried to tell the Pharisees, who wanted to desperately to protect the sanctity of God in that same way, that it really wasn't that serious, that they tried to have God incarnate killed.


Is there some ego behind our idea of praying correctly? Is there some sense of pride in pretty, decorated prayers? The "cut-flower, gracefully arranged bouquet of words" Loder describes? I think so. I think, when people get so uppity about "respecting" God and not talking to Him so formally (as I've seen so many people get online), they tend to miss the point of what it means to actually walk with God: it means being familiar with Him, open, honest, and ourselves. It's why, in so many languages that still have a formal and informal word for "you," you'll always hear them use the informal version with God, never the formal: because we are to be close, informal, frank, personal, honest, and real with God.


Not dressed up. Not repressed. Not careful. Just honest. (I mean, do you know how many times my prayers to God have been, "Dear God, what the fuck just happened?" It is what it is.)


God wants us to talk plainly. He wants us to be real with Him—because He already knows what we really think and feel! And if you try and hide it behind some vain sense of decorum, all you're really doing is telling God that there's a wall of separation between you and Him. That your pride and your self-made rules are a filter you want to shelter yourself, and Him, with. But closeness with God means there can be no filter, no façade, no prim decorum and pretenses of etiquette.


So how do you pray to God?


With as honest and true words as you can find in human speech. And with the boldness and audacity and trust to know God is listening to every single one.


Ask Your Questions!


Remember, all your questions can go to this Google form, so don't hesitate to reach out! I'm here to help, and there are no questions that are off limits. If you're curious, ask away!



-Sara


 

Christian Witch, Witchcraft, Mysticism, Magic, Crystals, Bible, Incense, Folklore, Sara Raztresen, God, Spirituality, Tarot, Occult, Evangelical, Demons, Sin, Danger, Possession, Idolatry

Sara Raztresen is a Slovene-American writer, screenwriter, and Christian witch. Her fantasy works draw heavily on the wisdom she gathers from her own personal and spiritual experience, and her s


piritual practice borrows much of the whimsy and wonder that modern society has relegated to fairy-and-folktale. Her goal is to help people regain their spiritual footing and discover


God through a new (yet old) lens of mysticism.



Follow Sara on Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube, and explore her fiction writing here.


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1 comentario


Casie Lamb
Casie Lamb
4 days ago

I love this post you made. And it makes sense for me of what I have been doing in my own prayer journal. I’m a Christian trying to make a feel of what God has in store for me. Especially when it comes with the craft. It’s funny how you said being honest and open with God in prayer. Because He had go through facing things on my own in journaling (not in my prayer journal). As I started to feel more open with myself, I went back to my prayer journal. Ever since then I have been opened and honest. And my prayers have been more different recently in a good way. This post is awesome. And it make…

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