Sunday, August 19, 2007

Prayer

The other day I was listening to a radio preacher in the morning on my way to work, and he made a statement that lodged itself directly into my brain: (the following quote is not exact, but a paraphrase) "Prayer is a skill you need to develop over your whole lifetime." I cannot help but think this statement and its underlying thought patterns do nothing better than trivialize the spiritual exercise of prayer, and more importantly, the reverence due to God and His very sovereignty.

The problem with this type of thinking is simply this: it is no more developed, no more sophisticated, no more mature than the equivalent thinking of a small child honing her skills of manipulation and questioning to get something she desires from mommy or daddy. Prayer is no more a skill to be developed, than God is a cosmic vending machine in the sky on which to operate with that same skill until one receives all that one desires, without respect to the divine will or His omniscient wisdom. Well, perhaps the TV preacher didn't carry the idea that far, but that's the logical conclusion of it based on what I remember. I remember also being completely disgusted with those particular parts of the message.

Has anyone bothered to ask themselves whether God, who is infinite and omniscient and omnipotent, particularly desires to be treated like some cosmic slot machine in the heavenly faith casino of man-centeredness and self-will?

(The title links to some Puritan prayers I found in a recent Internet search. My hope is you will find them interesting and helpful.)

4 comments:

Hobster said...

If prayer is something that can be taught, what is wrong with thinking that we can learn how to do it better over our lifetime?

Byroniac said...

Perhaps I over-reacted, but so many people seem to treat prayer as merely a spiritual activity for acquiring things we desire in life. I understand and agree that prayer can be taught, and that we can improve in it over the course of our lives. But first and foremost, our prayer lives should reflect directly on the depth of our spirituality, and the maturity of our relationship with Christ. And our minds should be saturated with Scripture.

Having said all that, I'm nowhere near achieving that high standard.

Luke said...

Not having heard the context in which the statement you refer, it is very hard to respond with any accuracy. Yet, the statement, upon its face value I believe does have merit. First let me state that I believe, like you report, that we do not learn to be better "negotiators" or "manipulators". By no stretch could I agree with the quote you reference if toward those ends is what it references.
However, I believe that we can mature in prayer in that those things which at first so easily distracted us in praying no longer do such. In a sort of way, we have taken thoughts captive. Tracking my thoughts during prayer becomes more transparent as well. At first, most prayers were of the request type of praying but with maturity and purpose, praying can take on a whole different manner in which we focus on intercessory praying, spiritual warfare and devoted worship.

Your final conclusion I agree with as well. God is not only NOT a cosmic slot machine, neither is he a cosmic vending machine either. Learning to pray, "never-the-less, not my will but thine be done" is indeed the struggle to not only say, but to mean as well with every fiber of one's being.

Thank you for a thought provoking post.

Byroniac said...

Hobster & Luke:

Thank you for stopping by, and for your comments.

I am convinced that I never truly desire God's will in prayer perfectly. About the closest that ever happens, is when God's desires and mine coincide (though there is no real coincidence, but that's the subject for another post). And even then, I'd be perfectly happy if someone else's day went to pot if it meant getting my way. In fact, if it took several people's day going to heck in a handbasket in order for my will to be done, that'd be perfectly fine by me. There's always tomorrow. If they survive, that is.

I can't truthfully say I feel any different, even though I know it's wrong.