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January 26, 2005

Comments

Whisky Prajer

When the possibility of transformation is removed from the equation, I very much doubt there's any value to any of the spiritual disciplines - especially prayer. The "Dear Santa" approach to prayer is altogether distasteful, but it seems to be a recommended start. My kids use it, and I don't piss on their parade, basically because I hope it will eventually lead to them "wrestling" with God in maturity - for transformative reasons, if nothing else.

Digressive thought: Gethsemane reads as a tortured version of the original "Lord's Prayer".

will

I'm wondering if you really don't pray, or if you've just stopped writing "Dear God, it's me, Greg" letters in your head. Somehow we ended up with this notion that it's not prayer unless our hands are folded, our heads bowed, and our eyes closed... and I don't think that's it at all.

Scott Jones

Back in the fall, I wrote a post about my history with praying. I pretty much quit (or dialed back to the most minimal level that my up-bringing & character could allow) for years in my mid-twenties. What changed for me was finally realizing that intercessory prayer was only a very minimal form of praying (Richard Foster helped with this awareness), that there are SO many modes of prayer and different ways to pray. What they all have in common is opening oneself up to the presence of God.

I like what Tim wrote the other day too. So lately I've been trying that. I sometimes hate asking for things. But if I simply enter into God's presence and while there image others also in God's presence, that seems more powerful in some way.

I don't think it changes God. It does change us, but not in the annoying way you are wanting to eliminate. Daniel Vestal says that he believes we baptists need to rediscover the spiritual disciplines (particularly meditation) because that is what is keeping us from forming authentic Christian community. If we simply spent more time silently in the presence of God, Vestal thinks we will come to a greater awareness of how to live with one another in the presence of God.

I feel this to be true. When I am more faithful in meditating and praying, I'm less stressed, more focused and confidant, more secure, more able to function as a healthy human being, especially in my relationships with other people.

marty

I kind of think that prayer is a means of getting quiet enough to let the answers (or at least the suggestions) that are already there sort of drift to the surface. Not that I think God is specifically talking to me in prayer, but that the ideas God's given me the capacity to have are not being drowned out by my self-loathing and cynicism.

Lorrie

I see prayer as worship. That's why I pray, whether it's asking for guidance, my way, or for someone, it's all worship to me.

Streak

wow, great question, Greg and nice comments everyone. I really like Marty's explanation--that makes a lot of sense to me. During my upbringing, prayer was presented as the giant petition, or as a controlling threat. "I am praying that you will stop asking these questions and be more like me." Well, not exactly literally that, but close. I have always found the idea of meditation worthwhile even as I struggle to do it. I respect the idea of praying for people, not that it changes God's mind, but that it is an expression of my caring for others.

Tofflemire

I have been asking the same questions for the past year. It primarily upsets those I ask, esp. my wife. Outside of asking for personal change, it all seems a bit trivial. As a friend asked me once, "Why not set up shop at Children's Hospital and pray for the dying children, rather than some 90 year old dyed-in-the-wool believer?"

marty

Not to exhaust my AA analogy (it'll work if you work it), but it seems that when a difficult situation is looming I tend to do a lot of asking, "Do what you're going to do, but help me think it's right and help feel at peace with it." I think it amounts to practice for me to think of whatever situation that way.
I recently started leading a small group and introduced prayer as the first topic for discussion prefacing it with a ridiculously literal explanation of it (thinking up a one-sided conversation to some alien father-figure who will hear me out of the billions of people and will perform magic on my behalf). Prayer is an absurd practice, but I still believe in it. Maybe that's just hold-over from my fundy youth (ya know, superstition under the guise of faith).

cheek

Prayer is a discipline like any other. The way it's done in most fundy circles is no less a discipline than in most others; it's just that the hours that the fundies spend don't seem to have any realistic purpose even if we do allow for God to enter the equation. For me, prayer has become a constant state of mind. I trained myself a few years ago to just say and meditate on the Lord's Prayer three times a day, and from that my prayer life has expanded to the point that now it fills most of my waking hours. I don't often pray for anything or ask any questions of God; I just sort of point my thoughts in his direction. It sounds pretty silly, especially to me, but I think there are times when that constant inner monologue is the only thing that sustains my faith in times when the big questions about God and evil seem too big for me. It's kind of like the pageantry of the liturgical tradition. I'm never quite sure what all the standing and kneeling and head-ducking is really accomplishing while I do it, but despite my impudent scepticism, I usually end up renewed in the purpose of living out the community that Christ envisioned for the world. There are just some things that we do because we are part of a community that does them; I know that prayer isn't quite like that, but it's similar I think. At least for me.

eddie

Prayer is what prayer is. I don't do it that much either. At least the act of sitting down and praying.

I am not sure what the effects are. I know that when I do pray things tend to be better for me, or at least feel better. Does God listen? Who knows? I think he probably does. it's another one of those faith things I guess. Faith sucks, but it's all we got.

PEACE

eddie

P.S. pray becasue it changes you greg!!!! Let the A-whupping start here!!

Bob Smietana

Two thoughts. One is humility--that in prayer I acknowledge that I'm not God, I'm not in charge of the world. The other is service--in prayer, God changes me so that I can go out and love and serve others. Less like a cosmic ATM or order form, and more like a relationship. Henri Nouwen wrotes alot about the connection of the interior and exterior life--in "Reaching Out" and "Out of Solitude" especially.

(Of course, just because I read those books doesn't mean I'm any good at prayer.)

We just did a piece on a church that prayed round the clock for 14 weeks (they started out doing one and people just kept coming back) The idea came from 24-7prayer.com , a loose grouping of people who've started 24-7 prayer rooms around the world and tries to combine prayer, service, and justice together.

Bob Smietana

I said "prayer changes me" so I guess I'm in line for a "big old blog ass-whupping." So do your worst. But it's true. I could have said something like prayer connects you with the transcendant presence of the almighty creator who called the universe into being and sustains it by grace in order that I might be an instrument of grace and play a small role in ushering the everlasing kingdom of God, but "prayer changes me" is shorter, and means the same damn things.

There, I said it again. Do I get two "big ass blog whippings" or is today a two for one sale?

I'd put a smiling face at the end of this blog (so you know I'm yanking your chain) but that would probably lead to another whupping and two is all I can handle.

Brandon

Why pray?

My answer is that I really want to pray. Even though I don't a lot of the time. When I pray--unconventionally, albeit--I feel more connected to the great something that I believe to be God.

I pray because I hold that communication is a need hardwired into human beings by millions of years of evoluion. If that communication is indeed a need as I believe it to be. It follows that if I believe that there is a God that loves and desires to know me out there (which I do,) it is logical that I communicate with that being as well.

That's why I pray, when I do. That's why I miss that I don't do it more.

Adam

Side note: My mom asked me to pray for my grandmother the other day. I told her I don't pray anymore, oops!

Greg,
I'm glad you asked this question. It is something I have been troubled by for a long time now. I hate asking God for things because the vast, vast, majority of the time She doesn't answer. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray he his example to them didn't include any questions or open ended statements. I think marty is right, that if prayer exists its something more like quiet meditation so as not to drown out our God given capacities to "hear" the answers, but this seems like a strange notion of prayer. Ultimately I think I don't pray "like that" anymore because I'm so tired of being dissappointed.

Steve

The best reason to pray, I believe, is because the Bible tells us to. Prayer is about God, not about us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses the subject of prayer, so it must have significance. He tells to pray in secret (Matthew6:6); not to babble (Matthew 6:7); and realize that the Father already knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8).
Prayer was never a option to Jesus. He got very early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35). Prayer to Jesus always begins and ends with the Father. When we truly pray, we recognize the glory and power of God. Prayer, true prayer, allows us to ourselves as we truly are, without the mask, without the hypocrisy, without the righteous attitude so often seen in Christianity.
The tax collector in Luke 18 knew how to pray; the Pharisee did not.
Paul in Colossians 4 instructs to devote to prayer, being watchful and thankful. While unanswered prayer is a difficult to explain, and perhaps cannot be explained, God tells to pray, which I think is the best reason to pray.

Caleb

Ideally, prayer, like worship, fixes our attention on something outside of ourselves. Realistically, of course, both prayer and worship often become about ourselves, and usually when I try to pray (or worship) I'm immediately dismayed by how quickly my thoughts stray back to myself. Perhaps, though, it is good to pray precisely because in prayer the ideal and the real, God-worship and self-worship, are forced to wrestle together.

Joey

Great blog - I`m first time visitor. It appears that you and I share a significant amount of opinions and angst.

The question you pose ("why pray") answers itself. If you don't know the answer, you have very little reason to pray. If you do know the answer, you see its value. It is sort of like asking the question "why eat?". If you are unable to make the connection from that strange rumbling in your abdomen between lunch and supper to the practice of eating food, then you have no real reason to eat and you may die of starvation or wallow in weakness and hunger until you make the connection. On the other hand, if you recognize the connection, you won`t ask the question. Similarly, if you make the connection between prayer and that spiritual condition which precipitates the need for prayer, you won`t ask the question.

Absent that understanding, attempts at answering the question will seem futile, as does any attempted expression of the ineffable.

jpe

Somehow we ended up with this notion that it's not prayer unless our hands are folded, our heads bowed, and our eyes closed... and I don't think that's it at all.

I think that's the winner. Formalized prayer has always struck me as, well, stupid. Prayer escapes being dumb when it mirrors the structure of Creation: spontaneous jubilation (or sorrow). I definitely don't mean to fetishize 'authenticity' or anything or set up some semiology of bad:good::inauthentic:authentic, although on reread I don't know if that's possible to escape. Hmm.

Tim Sean

Wonderful thoughts from everyone. As a youthminister, i get the cahnce to "teach" prayer to a handful of about 35 teenagers. they are terrified by public praying, though I when I give them to option of praying silently for one another I sense they genuinely want to do that and give it their best shot.

What happens when they close their eyes? Part "Please be with..." and part day dreaming, part wondering when I will call "time" and say Amen, part guilt because your mind has wandered from the asking part. I guessing this because its what going through my head as well. Still its a room full of teenagers and adults thinking about difficult things we are going through, in silence, inour be fuddled humanity, with a nod to a greater something, to the idea (reality) of Jesus. It's elusive and a pain in the ass, but its beautful as well.

You shold also watch the dance we do with their prayer requests. Someone the other day wanted us to pray for them going to a Ben Folds concert. That was it. I asked, "What do you want from God, for Ben to sing on key?" They laughed and mumbled something about safety. Mundane! Misses the point of prayer. they just wanted to tell teh group they were going to the show cause it was the most significant thing coming up in their life.

So I say, why don't we pray for safety and that God would allow you to meet someone interesting that has something spiritualy new to give you. Ask for an adventure.

I wonder if in the silence God heard. Wondering has to be enough.

Whisky Prajer

So we're all in agreement, then: pray because it changes you, and because the Bible says so.

marty

Our Heavenly Father, we come to you today to praise you and thank you for all the gifts you've given us.
God, please, just, be with Greg. And Please, just, bless Friar Tim. And just, just, God, I ask you to put your hands on Whiskey Prajer and heal his whiskey drinking and his misspelling problem and his Mark Lanegan addiction, and just, just be with him, God.
In Jesus Name we Pray,
Amen.

pp

Oh, man, am I try so hard not to be cynical. But, some of you have proffered the most trite and thoughtless examples of why we should pray that I've ever heard (actually, I always hear them, that's why they're hackneyed).

Only a select few have offered something creative.

Granted, some of you might not have thought of prayer in any other way than what you've been taught at home, in church, from what you extract from stray verses in the bible.

I'm not going to call any individuals out but there were some guilty one in this Comments page.

It seems we all like to throw out these esoteric stabs at what we make of "prayer." If we must deconstruct, I like the way Marty has done it (see the 8th comment down). At least, in the way we explain a modern, traditionalist, segmented view of prayer.

To understand, we begin from scratch. No words. Silence. Notice your senses: especially your touch-sense. Commune with Creator; the One Who Permeates Our Reality. It's uncomfortable at first. But, it grows on you. See: Sadhana--A Way to God, Christian Exercises in Eastern Form by Anthony De Mello.

Maybe that's too Buddhist for you. To learn, we must forget.

Bob Smietana

What, no butting whipping from Greg? Alas, maybe he's lost his touch!!

marty

I've been praying for him so he loses his quickness to anger and ass kicking.

Tofflemire

I just pray he loses his quickness in general so it will be easier to avoid the ass kicking.

Jennifer

Pray not to avoid the ass-whoopin', pray for a thick ass to endure it.

eugh. I just said thick ass.

Dave Rattigan

Hey, you don't have trackback!

Anyway, here's my piece.

Perry

Hey, don't know you...but liked your question. I can't tell you why you should pray, but I can tell you why I do. I pray because like in any relationship, communication helps me feel closer to the person I am in relationship with. In this case, it just happens to be God. I am sure this is no deep insight, just thought I would share.

Perry

Whisky Prajer

Marty -

Yours is the best intercession I've had in years - thanks! It's like you know me better than I know myself! Two things: 1) "whisky" is correct, if you use the auld english (which I do, whenever tippling); 2) Who the hell is Mark Lanegan?! I've Googled him and I still don't know!

mis_nomer

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