Wednesday 3 November 2010

Prayer by the Rules

November 3, 2010

I wonder a lot about prayer.

It seems to me that prayer should be so simple.  Conversation with Someone who really loves you, and who you (hopefully) love (or at least are learning to love).

(But then again, conversation with other humans who love you and/or you love isn't all that easy, a lot of the time.  But that's another topic for another day).

When I was growing up, it seemed that there were a lot of rules about prayer. For example:
  • Close your eyes and fold your hands.
  • Preferably kneel.
  •  Pray for a long time (the more righteous and spiritually mature, the longer you pray).
  •  Use King James Version speech (lots of "Thee's" and "Thou's")
  •  Quote Scripture (preferably KJV), to give credence to what you are praying about (and/or to "preach")
  •  At church, the minister or elders should pray, and children should mostly be seen but not heard.
  • At home, in daily "family worship," all children must take their turn praying, especially if their friends are standing there waiting for them.
  • Children pray to "dear Jesus."  Adults pray to "Dear Heavenly Father."  (Until I was an adult, I never heard anyone pray to/in/re "Holy Spirit" ... but that's another topic for another time, also).
  • Prayers must end with the words, "In Jesus name, Amen." If these words are not used, the prayer will likely not be answered.  (As a child, I also wondered why we pray "Dear Jesus...In Jesus' name."  And yes, sometimes I still wonder about that).
  • When we pray, we must be very reverent.  We are not talking to a dear friend, or father, or other Person we have a loving relationship with.  Okay, nobody ever said that last statement, but that's how it seemed.  On the other hand, I loved to listen to my grandpa pray.  He always sounded like he was talking to his very best Friend in the whole world.  (He was, needless to say, as I later realized).
  • Very saintly people not only prayed long prayers with lots of impressive formal prayer language, but they always either started or ended (or sometimes both) each sentence with an impressive drawn-out "ahhhhh" sound. And often pronounced "Lord" as "Lawd."
  • Depending on which church one attended, prayers were either extemporaneous or liturgical (written).  Never a combination.  And churches that did the opposite were wrong.
(Now that I am old, I tend to pray like my grandpa.  To my best friend, my Papa, my dear Jesus, to His wonderful Spirit who is always with me.  Anytime, anywhere, any-how.  Because I have finally comprehended that I AM LOVED.  So simple, after all.)

But I have been digressing. And being unduly sarcastic and critical.  (And feeling guilty about it, yes).  (Sorry). 

What I actually started out to do is ask y'all
whether one should "persevere in prayer" or "pray once and believe"?  The "perseverance" folks seem to feel that God honors the prayers of those who never give up praying until the request is answered (exactly as requested, I presume).  The "pray once and believe" folks, on the other hand, seem to feel that praying for a request more than once shows lack of faith, and such faith-less prayer will not be answered.  Thoughts?

One more thing.  Today I was reading Eric-Carpenter's blog, A Pilgrim's Progress, and he was writing about "I'm Reformed So I Need to Write Something Really Deep Right Now." .  I had to smile.  It kind of reminded me of the prayer-rules when I was growing up :-) .  Among other things, he wrote:

I feel this weird pressure to write something really deep about God right now. I could just write what I'm thinking, "I'm amazed that God loves me and doesn't send me to Hell right now." That's the truth. It may not sound very deep, but that's what I'm thinking and feeling.

If I wanted to sound ... really smart* at the same time, I suppose I would write something like this, "I am continually astounded that our infinitely holy, triune God stoops down to cast His affections toward me, one who has rebelled and transgressed against God's holy law an infinite and terrible number of times and ways. That He refuses to cast me headlong into the terrors of Hell, reserved for Satan and the fallen angels, each moment stuns me beyond measure. All my deepest affections and loving admirations I place at His feet upon His high and lofty throne. Amen."
*[or in the case of prayer-rules, really reverent]

Now that's how to pray by the rules.

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