May 5, 2015

praying mom

Many Christians, including many clergy, have come to accept that they don’t find prayer easy, that they don’t really understand what it does or can do. Many have become, in a puzzled sort of way, vaguely reconciled to this perplexity, as though it makes them in some way second-class citizens. Some lay folk, if you ask them about their own prayer, will tend to say ‘Oh, I leave that to the clergy.’ Some clergy will say, ‘Oh, I leave the serious stuff to the monks and nuns.’ Some in the monastic communities will say ‘well, we can’t all be mystics, can we?’

It can be very frustrating, we’ve probably all heard the phrase; “my prayers went no higher than the ceiling.” We have to admit that a lot of our prayer is based on feeling or for those that are adverse to feelings and spirituality they depend upon formula. But we all ask; “am I praying amiss” or how can I prayer better?

Many adopt the Lord ’s Prayer, it has been dissected, analyzed, studied and become rote for many a believer; and if that was the only prayer I prayed 99% of the time, than that’s better than no prayer at all.

St Paul, in a famous passage, says that ‘we don’t know how to pray, or what to pray for, as we ought’, and says that we therefore depend on God’s spirit to help us, catching us up into the agonizing dialogue between the living God and the pain of the world, even though we don’t really understand what’s happening (Romans 8:18–27). That may be humbling, but it should also be encouraging.

Well that sounds wonderful but it still leaves me with a mystery. Honestly I’m not sure how to depend upon God’s spirit to help me pray. Sure I can pray in tongues or do ‘the say it over 100 time’s spiritual jingle’. But honestly it can be frustrating, I’m commanded to pray yet usually fail at it. Ah, and there’s the rub, who says I’m failing at my prayers, who says the measure I’m using is right or wrong or even accurate.

I’m convinced that any prayer and all prayer is good, it’s the attempt that I make that is important. God is everywhere and always with me, so I know he hears every prayer no matter how I feel. It’s not fair to compare my prayers with what someone else says is the standard or what is the current fad or top selling current book says. Like the Nike ad, just do it. Or like the old hippies, “chill man” it’s more about my attitude than the words.

It remains a great mystery, that it’s often very hard work with little apparent or immediate reward. Yet great things depend upon us praying, because most important of all it changes me and believe me nothing needs a greater overhaul than me, like all of us we are marred by sin, all of our motives are suspect and yes I can pray for the wrong things. But the good news is God answers His way not my way.

How do you set about praying? From our point of view, there is a fairly obvious order of priorities. We’re usually in some sort of mess, and we want God to get us out of it. Then we’ve usually got some fairly pressing needs, and we want God to supply them. That’s how most people pray. Go on, admit it, most of our prayers are emergency or Leprechaun prayers, you know, let me win the lottery, or let the light stay green, or bargaining prayers, if you answer this prayer I’ll serve you forever. How did we ever turn God into I Dream of Genie?

There is not only just a larger world out there; there’s a larger God out there. And that is the journey of discovery God wants us to make. One of the first things we need to learn in order to change our prayer life is to believe we are truly, eternally forgiven, past, present and future. So stop praying constantly the “I’m sorry prayer.”

Well that’s a good place to pause.

God bless from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

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