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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prayer as Theology

Class started today with an interesting statement- "the way that we pray tells us more about our theology than anything else." The central beliefs that we hold about God, both expressed and unexpressed, are most evident in the kind of prayers that we most often pray.

And then we were challenged with this question, "If I pray for a safe trip, am I more likely to be safer?" How we answer this question begins to give us insight into our God-image. I tend to think that if God has ever once in all history answered this prayer (which so many of us pray), then yes, we are more likely to get home safer. But, that tells you more about my math than my picture of God. :-) How would you answer the question?

For many of us, listening to our prayers will reveal how incredibly me-focused we are...God help me...God bless me...God give me a good day, a good test, a trip, etc, etc, etc. Without realizing it, we turn God into a cosmic traffic cop who exists to make our commute better than the world around us. What was suggested in class today was that we use prayer to help us manage the anxiety of our day more than we do to help us know God or come under his authority in our lives. This kind of praying also sets us up for an unhealthy dualism- if my prayer is "answered" and things go well, God is for me. If things go wrong, then God must be against me or angry with something I have done. Our professor told a story about praying as a child for a snowstorm so school would be canceled. The next day, sure enough, the ground was covered and school was axed. But later that day he heard about a family who had died on the roads because of the snow- and he felt responsible!

Here's where the rubber really meets the road: we will worship the God we imagine, and this is the God we introduce to others! How often do we get involved in selling an image of God that will make your life better? If you read between the lines, this is often our appeal to Christ- come to Jesus and your life will get better. Really? Is that really who God is?

So, I ask you- if you pray for a safe trip, are you more likely to arrive home safely? Why?

Let the discussions begin...

Peace,
Nick

5 comments:

Britt said...

oooohhh...I like it! My answer is, I dunno. I'm sure Michelle told you that we did a small study on prayer in our moms group and we talked about stuff like this. I know that it can't HURT anything to pray, but whether it helps or not...I have no clue. Yeah, how's that for totally non-committal?? :D

I don't think God exists to make our lives easier and I don't think that bad things happen because God is mad at us (although I think bad things can/do happen when we do bad things that we know are wrong -- it's called consequences). I agree that most of us come to God with a "bless me" attitude instead of a "use me" attitude. *hand raised to indicate my inclusion in the former category*

Doing the prayer study was really helpful to me for a couple reasons. First, it helped me re-prioritize my prayer time away from what I want, to what God wants. And second, the author of the book recommended that prayer begin with worship -- calling on God in several of his "names" (something you talked about in the prior post). By telling God how holy and great he is, and reminding myself where I stand in comparison, it helped prepare my heart to hear what he had to say instead of just entering in to prayer time with a, "Hey God. What's up? Sooo...here's my laundry list of to-dos. When can I expect you to complete these things? Well, talk at you tomorrow! Amen."

I am learning (albeit slowly) to approach God differently. He's not a genie in a lamp to do my bidding. I am here to do his.

Pastor Nick said...

Well said, Britt.

And I think it's not that we remind or tell God how holy and great He is, as much as reminding ourselves!

Sounds like that prayer book/group was very worthwhile. Michelle felt the same.

Peace!
Nick

Anonymous said...

Let me try to comment without getting totally off topic. Sometimes the words in my head don't go down in print very well.

I admit that I have prayed for safe travel because the Bible says in Philippians 4:6,7(NIV) "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God..."

I don't wonder if the person I am praying for safe travel for will actually be safer or not. Praying for them frees me from feeling anxious and helpless. They're in God's hands. I release them into His hands when I pray for them. Brian just went on a motorcycle trip for 3 days and you can be certain I prayed for his safe travel!! But I also know that God is God and I am not and I am prepared (well, not really prepared, but you know what I mean) for anything to happen. I mean, I prayed for a healthy pregnancy with the twins and look what happened? Didn't God answer my prayers? I don't know. And I don't care. I don't spend a lot of time wondering why God doesn't answer my prayers how I wanted Him to. I want everything about my life to be used for His glory, no matter what.


The more I read my Bible and study the people in it, the more I learn about the character of God. I see how he used people, got them through some tough times, and as I continue to study and learn His word, my prayer life is transformed. Make sense?


I think we should talk about prayer and FASTING now.

Sheila Clark said...

That last Anonymous post is from Sheila....couldn't remember my Google password....

Pastor Nick said...

sheila, or anonymous, or whoever you are-

I think that's great perspective! Praying for safety isn't bad at all- the Bible does encourage us in many places to pray about all things. You have identified the bigger issue here- what do we expect from God?

Thanks for chiming in!