Praying as the Middle Voice

My reading to start 2011 has included an eclectic array of books, and they’ve ranged from business/management oriented (Jack Welch’s Winning and Daniel Pink’s Drive), to spiritual (Eugene Petersen’s The Contemplative Pastor, Walter Brueggemann’s Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth, Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing, Howard Thurman’s Search for Common Ground) to practical parenting (Daniel Silk’s Loving our Kids on Purpose).

Very rarely do I get on a string of books this good, but each one of the titles above might be the best I’ve read in their respective fields.  Obviously each of the fields are so broad that it’s tough to say these are “the best”, but I dare say these are all “must-reads”.

For parents especially, I’d recommend Daniel Silk’s book.

Anyhow, one point that Petersen makes in The Contemplative Pastor is that prayer is similar to what grammarians would refer to as “the middle voice”.  For those of you who have learned a language other than your native language (and for those who haven’t), here’s a refresher on “the middle voice”.

1.  Active Voice (my action) – “I counsel.”

2.  Passive Voice (action done to me) – “I am counseled.”

3.  Middle Voice (I actively participate in an action done to me) – “I receive counsel.”

Sometimes we can revert to prayer being one or the other – active or passive, and so it becomes a rote tradition that is either really tiring (constant intercession, no contemplation) or not very meaningful (constant silence, constant dozing off).

But prayer is one of those “middle voice” realities where I am actively passive in communion with God.

I’m trying to be as mindful of this as possible, and I think the Psalms are a good model for what this middle voice looks like.

This is just a hunch, but I think we’d probably all be better off if we practiced praying in the middle voice when it came to management, spirituality, and parenting.


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