The new pastor at Bridgetown Church, a nondenominational church in downtown Portland, Oregon, has a mission.
Tyler Station, also a husband and father of three, wants people to get real about prayer — which is why he wrote a new book, “Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer.”
Prayer is difficult even for committed Christians, he told Fox News Digital in a recent phone interview.
“I would say the heart of our difficulty is that we approach prayer with a level of formality,” he said.
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“But that type of formality in prayer is actually never described in Scripture.”
People don’t worry about “doing conversation wrong” with other human beings, he said — yet many may fear getting prayer “wrong” because we’ve been taught it should be more “formal.”
“I think most people, regardless of how long they’ve prayed, are approaching God with a higher level formality than Jesus reveals in Scripture,” said the pastor.
There’s a better way to approach it, he revealed.
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“If you think of the ways and names by which God is described in Scripture, he is our father, friend, comforter and advocate,” said Staton.
“And yet I think the way that we approach God is, typically, [as] ‘boss.’”
Most people first encounter prayer by going to a church and hearing a pastor pray,” he said. “So we learned [by] listening to a professional pray.”
“God’s endgame is to reunite, in unbroken intimacy, with all people.”
He added of the “professionals,” “They use words I would never use in ordinary speech.”
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The “antidote” to this prayer formality is the Psalms, said Staton — “the prayers of David, the exemplary prayers that have framed the Hebrew prayer life in the temple, leading up to Jesus.”
Staton said that Jesus himself “quoted the Psalms more than any other book in the Bible.”
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The Psalms are “littered” with all sorts of things “we think we’re not allowed to say to God,” said Staton — “including, ‘Where are you, God? Why are you doing this? You should be doing that. I feel like you forgot me.’”
These are “things you never hear the pastor at the front of the church say.”
“God’s endgame is to reunite, in unbroken intimacy, with all people,” said Staton.
“The biblical story is that through the consequences of sin, a seam was ripped through that intimacy.”
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He added, “That’s what happened in the fall — there’s suddenly broken intimacy with God and broken intimacy with each other.”
Prayer at its highest is “a taste of that intimacy restored,” said Staton.
“For now, it’s kind of like an appetizer. I know there’s a feast that will never end, awaiting me.”
He added, “When God’s mission is complete and the heaven and earth are one again and that union has been restored, prayer will be [about] enjoying God’s presence forever as he enjoys ours.”
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He also said, “God is all-knowing, so if we’re faking it, he knows. He would prefer if we’re just honest with him in our prayers.”
Staton said he believes that bringing conflicting thoughts, emotions and even anger to God in prayer leads to a deeper relationship with him.
“Anthropologically, I would just say we know that conflict is a portal to deeper intimacy,” he noted.
(See Pastor Staton as he preaches in the video shown in the tweet below.)
“Everyone who’s married, everyone who has a best friend, everyone who’s worked closely with a colleague for years — they have encountered conflict, worked through it and actually developed a deeper relationship as a result,” he said.
Staton said that as humans, we don’t take the principles with which we interact in the world to our personal interactions with God.
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“When there is conflict between us and God, we have to be honest about it,” he said.
“And if we do, we take the risk that our honesty could actually deepen our trust in God or our understanding of God — and our intimacy with God.”
“It is to pray for the hungry until I find my own hand distributing bread …”
He said, “Prayer is not one thing in a walk with Jesus. It’s everything.”
He added, “It’s the source of power. It’s the place of love. It’s the life source of the Christian life.”
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Staton said that he has found a “disciplined rhythm of communion” with God through prayer.
“And that has been most profoundly preserved in the church through the monastic tradition,” he said, referring to the first half of his book’s title, “Praying Like Monks.”
Prayer is the place where all denominations of the church “have to, and can, unite,” he said. “We all pray to Jesus.”
The second half of his book’s title, “Living Like Fools,” comes from Staton’s belief that if people “spend time with Jesus, he will take you where he’s going.”
Station also said, “And he’s always going beyond your comfort zone … He’s going to the lost and the broken and the poor and the forgotten and the silenced and the marginalized.”
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There are two ways God seems to answer prayer, said Staton.
“The first is that he just stretches out his strong right hand and supernaturally responds. We pray and God answers in that way.”
“I’m opening myself up to power. I’m opening myself up to love. I’m opening myself up to hope.”
He continued, “But the second way, and I would say the way God most often answers prayer — his preferred method — is to so reform the heart of the praying person that they participate in the answer to their own prayer.”
He added, “It is to pray for the hungry until I find my own hand distributing bread, and to pray for that lost friend until I find myself in a conversation with them.”
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If you begin to “order your life” through prayer, “you’re going to find yourself on adventures with Jesus that are wildly risky and incredibly rewarding.”
He said that this will “feel foolish at first.”
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Noting that his entire pastoral experience has taken place in New York City — where he has planted churches — and in Portland, Oregon, Staton said the locations are “two of the least churched, most secularized cities” in America today.
Being a person of faith is often looked at as being “a person who is naive, who simply is not facing the facts about a world of suffering and who is not being thoughtful,” he said.
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“I think that to pray, for anyone today, is a risk of being what has become most unfashionable in culture.”
He continued, “And you see it on social media. You see it in conversations where everyone is in the cheap seats, critiquing whoever goes in the arena — and there’s fewer and fewer of us actually in the arena.”
“So I would say, to pray is to take the risk of getting in the arena and saying, ‘OK, I don’t have all the answers.’”
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He added, “‘I am opening myself up to disappointment. I’m opening myself up to foolishness. I’m opening myself up to criticism.”
Station also said, “And I’m also opening myself up to power. I’m opening myself up to love. I’m opening myself up to hope. And it’s better to just take the plunge and take that risk.”
Staton is also the author of “Searching for Enough” (2021), published as well by Zondervan Books. In addition, he is national director of 24-7 Prayer USA.