Friday, November 26, 2010

Why Pray?

My recent blog poll on prayer was not answered as I had expected. I put the poll up because I was curious to know if people thought the way I do about prayer. Evidently most people don't. 22 people took the poll and the results showed me how out of step I am with how people think. I didn't list every possible answer one could choose, but the four answers I provided were typical reasons people give for not praying.

When I posted the poll question I was thinking about the spiritual discipline of regular prayer, not the kind of prayer we do as we walk down the street on our way to work. It was my assumption that people would understand it that way, but I wasn't able to put it in the question, so some people understandably did not get what I was trying to get at. The spiritual discipline of prayer is the practice of prayer as something we do in the "prayer closet," wherever and however that might be. An example would be how my grandparents prayed. They would kneel down before their bed every night and pray out loud with each other.

From time to time I struggle with this kind of prayer for each of the reasons I provided. Sometimes I am well intentioned, but I get so busy I blow it off. Sometimes I get so weary of unanswered prayer that I don't bother.

Usually, however, my Calvinistic Christianity kicks in and I reason that God does not answer my prayers because His mind was made up before the creation of the world. After all, He is sovereign and his plan will be carried out just as he wants, so what makes me think I can get him to change his mind? Oh yes, the theological answer is, "God uses our prayers as PART of his plan to fulfill his will. Therefore, Joe, your prayers are meaningful." But, for me that's about as motivational as telling me I should vote for a candidate the day after the election.

Of course some people don't believe God predetermines anything at all. The universe is open ended and therefore our prayers will have an effect upon God's will for the "undetermined" future. If this is true I would be on my knees night and day. I suppose I'm too far gone as a Calvinist and rational Biblical thinker to accept that God is not so sovereign.

To be honest with you I think people might agree with me more than they are willing to admit.

I know, I know, I know... the Bible bids us to pray and we must accept the exercise of prayer on faith alone. But, I'm looking for motivation to pray. I want to be inspired.

Well guess what! I found it! The best motivation I know of is simply this, and it happens to be true, prayer is an important exercise because it humbles me before the will of Almighty God. The Christian philosopher, CS Lewis, put it this way, "prayer doesn't change God, it changes us." When we pray the most important effect that it has is it's effect upon my acceptance of God's will. You won't find a paticular Bible verse for this, but it is based on who God is and how He works with us.



Anonymous said...

What a delight to observe your thought processes and conclusions as you worked through this issues, Joe! Thanks for encouraging and teaching!

Anonymous said...

The Arch Bishop of South Africa said in an interview on NPR's The Long View series last winter (Im paraphrasing becuse of my poor memory) "when I was young I would pray to God and ask, now that I am old I turn to God in prayrer to be still and feel his warmth as a man warms himself beside a fire".