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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Keith writes on Prayer

I have always found prayer problematic as there is no way of knowing whether there is any point to it, particularly intercessory prayer. Jacques Ellul, the great French philosopher/theologian, published a book on it where he came to the conclusion that we pray because we are commanded to. I found that helpful.

However, I try and pray every day for the people on my list. Yancey's insight about praying about what we should pray for is very relevant. As Christians, we should be praying that any situation will work itself out on the dual principles of love and justice. So often we pray for self-aggrandisement. I wrote a song on the working of the Holy Spirit. I said "It's not my social status or my bank account that grows when the Spirit moves." I was making a point against prosperity doctrine. You can quite definitely be praying for things that are against God's revealed principles on how he wants the world to operate. Such prayer I would think is a waste of time.

For myself, I pray for what I want, but more that I will be the person that God wants. A good part of my prayer for myself over the last two years has been that I would be able to forgive someone who wronged me. I did this because a friend waited a decent interval for my initial anger to receed and then challenged me; "And how are you going on forgiving him, Keith?" Very good question. Definitely God speaking through him.

There are different types of prayer. Some is formal. I read a Psalm and pray through a list, trying for at least every second day. Then there is the conversational prayer we do from moment to moment as situations arise. But I've also recently discovered the benefit of retreats and silence to let God speak. That takes a larger chunk of time and a bit of organisation.

The important thing to keep in mind is that we can say anything to God. There are no right or wrong prayers in that sense. As far as I know, the writer of Lamentations was not blasted for saying that God had taken his face and ground it into gravel, and the writer of Psalm 137 was not condemned for saying "Blessed is who takes the Babylonian child and dashes its head upon a rock." Theologically you can say that there are "wrong" prayers, but there are no wrong prayers emotionally. God will take and process all we can give him.


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