Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer

I hate that the intro to each of these blog posts is a comment about not writing blog pots. But, there you go.

Continuing going through the spiritual disciplines, we come to prayer next. This is a spiritual discipline that Christians everywhere seem to practice - in private and in public; it is talked about, preached about, and taught about.

But when I really got down to thinking about prayer, in all its ubiquitousness (is that a word?) it still seems as mysterious to me as meditation. (See previous post.)

I come from a cessationist tradition that denies miracles in the present day; but all my life, I've heard people pray to God asking for things like healing of the sick (and praising God when He's healed them). I have trouble putting these two things together. This past April, after the tornados in Alabama, I heard story after story of people saying that God protected them because they prayed. What about the people that prayed that weren't protected from the tornados? And just this morning in church, someone prayed about how he knew God loved us because of our material blessings. At times, I've asked God to help me pay the rent, and praised Him when I was blessed with the ability to make the payment. But a lot of people don't have material blessings, and can't make ends meet - but if they're asking for these things from God and He doesn't provide, does that mean He doesn't love them? (Of course, there's a whole other set of posts about our role in helping the less fortunate.)

It made me start to wonder how much praying was tied to meditating. I guess, when all else fails, read what Jesus said about it:

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7)
This really got me to thinking. We like to throw around trite sayings like, "God always answers prayer - sometimes he says, 'Yes'; sometimes 'No'; sometimes 'Not now'." I've always hated that saying. But my own preferences aside, maybe the problem with us and prayer is that we don't know what to pray because we don't know God. We're not in tune with Him. Maybe it's taking that time in quiet meditation to understand who He is and what He wants that we're missing. Sometimes I look around at our current Christian culture, witnessing the hate, the hypocrisy, the utter selfishness we tend to project, and I wonder if we really understand God.

People always ask for things in prayer, adding "if it's Your will"; but I'm wondering, based on Jesus said - shouldn't we know?

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