Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thoughts on Prayer

The events of last year, with over 12,000 people praying for my daughter's healing, really shook up my "theology of prayer." I feel like I am trying to walk across an iced-over lake right now. My footing is very unsure. I am continuing to explore and journey through this, and hopefully will come to a God-centered conclusion.

One thing has really struck me. It is something that will make the "health-and-wealth" crowd uneasy. Scripture doesn't have a lot to say about praying for physical stuff -- even health. Maybe the most-used passage for that is in James 5, where James says (v. 13) "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord." Yet even here, MANY scholars believe James is referring contextually to spiritual sickness.

Now please don't roast me here. If you want to pray for cataract surgeries and things like that, I don't think it is wrong. It's just NOT where I am right now. I do find it sad that when we take prayer requests at church, nearly 100% of them will have to do with physical stuff. This just does not seem to align itself with Scripture.

So I've been thinking about "the Lord's prayer." Remember, the disciples asked of Jesus: "Teach us to pray." And so He did. Hear what He said (Luke 11: 2-4).

"Father, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us,
And lead us not into temptation."

In this prayer, Jesus urges His disciples to:
1. Honor God
2. Pray for the inbreaking of the kingdom here on earth.
3. Pray for DAILY SUSTINENCE.
4. Pray for forgiveness of one's sins, as well as for a forgiving attitude toward others.
5. Pray for SPIRITUAL strength to overcome temptation.

Five things He urged them to pray for. Four are spiritual, and one you could say is physical. But listen to what even the physical one implies: "Give us this day our daily bread." Hardly the prayer of Jabez! To me, it implies something spiritual. "Let me be satisfied with Your daily care." If anything, it diminishes / discounts concerns about the physical.

So for me in my journey right now, prayer is about SPIRITUAL things: strength to overcome temptation, being made more into the likeness of Jesus, dependence upon the Holy Spirit, etc.

Again, I am not writing this as the final authority on the subject. Nor am I telling anyone not to pray for "stuff." I am just giving an honest assessment of where I am.


9 comments:

Kristen said...

I could not agree more. A pastor once told me to pray for my son to be healed of diabetes and for my husband to be healed of alcoholism. He made me think I could control those things if my prayer life was sufficient. I prayed relentlessly. Finally I realized that I was praying for the wrong reasons. I pray very differently now. I try to listen when I pray, and think of that time more as a conversation with God than a time to make demands. I still pray for healing and protection for the people I love...but I want to listen to how God wants to use me in that regard. Thank you for posting this today!

I'm Kristen, the pajama mama said...

This makes a lot of sense to me, too. And is a good reminder to pay attention to what we focus our prayer energy on...thanks!

Kyle R. said...

I agree too. We focus more on physical prayers than we should, according to the Scriptures.

I have some thoughts on why that is.

And I'm not where I should be on this.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and complex. I just hope God hears and understands my selfish prayers when I ask for healing anyway. What about Ephesians 6:18 "pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests"...

God hears our lament. Even if it is asking for healing for something because it is making our hearts heavy?

What about ask and you shall receive?

So complex. I don't understand. I hope He forgives my ignorance......

Jeff said...

I feel like I'm walking arm-in-arm with you on this one.

Rick Ross said...

Anonymous,

Again, I wish people would post their names so that I know who I am talking with.

I understand all of your questions, and you have made some excellent points. I am struggling with those same verses, too. I have concluded that we must be misunderstanding the context of Jesus' words, "Ask and you shall receive," because reality tells me that does not happen. And the explanation that sometimes God's answer is, "No" has never satisfied me either. Why, then, didn't Jesus say, "Ask, and unless God says 'No' you shall receive"?

I hope I made clear in my blog that I am journeying through this, and do not claim in any way to be a final authority. I even said that I don't think it is wrong to ask for physical healing, etc. It is just not where I am right now. I would feel like I was throwing up empty words to do that. But I was not claiming to speak for anyone else.

Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

You made it absolutely clear that your are journeying. We all ask these questions, don't we? We are all on this same journey. Faith at all times is not an easy thing! In John 16:29 even after all that time the disciples spent with Jesus...they still struggled and finally believed? "this makes us believe that you came from God". Not an easy thing.

Thank you for sharing your grief and deep thoughts and questions with us.

And sometimes being anonymous feels free, maybe what it is like for Catholics being in a confessional.

No time is wasted thinking about God and his awesome mysteriousness. Wondering who he is and what he will do. So therefore we all "press along to the goal", eh?

Your blog is awesome. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I want to tell you that I totally agree with everything you have expressed about prayer, but am hesitant because I hear your own reluctance to agree wholeheartedly with your own conclusions. Those of us who have lived long enough to experience deep pain that rips through your life daily, as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, after begging God for a different answer, would all agree, that perhaps God wants us to learn through his example of prayer that he alone is enough. He seems to elude to that very thing by not encouraging us to ask for more than what we can hold today in either our hearts or our hands. Pehaps it is because as humans we can only live one moment at a time, at most one day. I do agree with your conclusions and perhaps more importantly trust them. If for no other reason than, with what you have experienced, that those conclusions draw you, and by example us, closer to God, and a respect for his ability to provide and see eternity.

Rick Ross said...

Anonymous 3:36

You are right in observing my reluctance. I am still journeying through this. Your words are well-stated and obviously come from the heart of someone who has "been there." Thank you for sharing.