Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity


How NOT to Pray

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Communing with God is a reflective, contemplative activity, not a grasping, demanding one. Riverside Muse, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at ICanvasART and Amazon.com.

Prayer is one of those topics that is always in fashion. It doesn’t really matter whether or how you believe in God — even atheists these days aren’t amiss to tapping into the spiritual world, and in the name of science (or scientism), it’s acceptable to talk about human potential, Life Force Energy, Cosmic Consciousness, mind over matter, Nature, even Gaia the Earth Goddess.

Spiritualism is okay with a lot of people, as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with God — THE God, that is, the one Who calls Himself I Am.

But if you’re a Christian, prayer has nothing to do with tapping into the life force of the universe, connecting with a collective consciousness, or commanding power from within. Unfortunately, however, these concepts — which are a trendy element of pop culture that have roots going back to the dawn of time — have crept into the Christian church, infiltrating and infecting the lives of believers.

Nag. Nag. Nag.

How many times have you been told: “You need a stronger faith. True belief will unleash the power of God,”

or

“God has a mighty plan for your life and He wants you to tap into His dynamism and vitality. If you only maintain a positive attitude of belief, you WILL move mountains!”

The essential message is that prayer is a means of unlocking blessings from God, prying open His tightly closed fist, and if you’re having money troubles or marital issues or health concerns, it’s because you don’t pray right. Because when you do pray right, God HAS to answer.

No Answer? Must Be Your Fault

You need to claim, declare, announce, demand, expect, and believe. You must never think a negative thought. You must “tap into” the power within you — because if the Holy Spirit is there, He’s a power, and He’s only waiting for you to learn how to use that power. The potential of your mind and imagination is such that if you only think hard enough, resolutely believe, and focus on what it is you really want, you’ll get it.

Perhaps you recognize the fallacy of these arguments: this is good. But I’m laying a bet that, despite your rejection of these deceptions, some of what they propound may have crept into your prayer life.

Fruits of the spirit do not include arrogance, insolence, presumption, brazenness, and cheek. The Fruit Vendor, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold.

How?

Have you ever prayed, quite specifically, for a particular answer? Like this:

“Father God: our brother needs this job. In Jesus’ name, we invoke your competence that his resume be blessed, that it will be on the top of the pile, and that the personnel manager will be impelled and compelled to hire him.” And you then picture, in your mind, this whole scenario happening. We convince ourselves that, praying “in the Spirit,” we are being given these images by the spirit/power within.

But let’s say that God has no desire for our brother to have this job, and actually has another job lined up, three months away. Would it not be better, and more trusting of our Father’s wisdom and grace, to pray,

“Father: our brother needs a job, and this opportunity has opened up. If it is to be, then lead him in what he should do. If it is not to be, then give him the grace to deal with the disappointment, anxiety, frustration and fear.”

Asking, Not Demanding

Many would say that this latter prayer sounds irresolute and negative, and by its very negativity, won’t “work,” but the purpose of prayer is not to compel, force, manipulate, push, prod, or demand that God “do” something. Prayer is communication with our Father, and those of us with experience of having, or being, earthly parents know that stubborn insistence never gets anybody very far. It’s always wiser to Ask.

Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to take an authoritative tone with God, and indeed, when words like “declare” or “proclaim” are used (and they are used quite often), they are overwhelmingly followed by the phrase, “by the Lord God.” He declares a lot of things to us; He does not invite us to declare back.

Rather, God instructs us to trust in Him, wait upon Him, delight in Him, hope in Him, run to Him as our refuge and strength. Psalm 37: 3, 5, 7, 8  tells us:

“Trust in the Lord and do good . . . Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him . . . Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him . . . do not fret — it leads only to evil.”

None of us has the power to command or create our next breath. And since we are unable to do this one very little thing (Luke 12: 26), what makes us think that we can take on the province of God, and control life — ours, or anyone else’s?

We are not little gods, but when we seek to wrest power from the One God, turn it around in our hands, and force Him to do our bidding, then we are falling for the same lie that Satan told Eve in Eden.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage you to be one of the 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19: 18). This is not something that we can do on our own, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19: 26).

Read His word. Check everything you are told in light of it. Pray. Stay Awake.

Posts similar to this one are

How to Pray

Sleeping Christians: Wake. Up.

When People Lie to Us

 



  • Joanna Sormunen

    Don’t worry :) I’m glad that you read my comment and answered. Don’t get stressed that you need to do it in a schedule :)
    Best lies always have a bit of truth in them. And this is such a sad lie because it ties people so tight and doesn’t let them experience what God’s power really means in their lives.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Scale Lily. Keeping it real is a consistent issue with all of us, and it involves constantly questioning why we do what we do, and why we think the way we think. These questions need to be asked more frequently in our churches, our schools, and our political arena, and the people asking them — persistently — should be Christians.

  • http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonsensechristianity/ Carolyn Henderson

    Joanna — I am so wretched about comments sometime, and I missed this one. You are so right — and you speak wisely. “Tapping into God’s power” is one of those lies that looks good, because it has truth in it (the best kind of lie) — but God’s power is at His disposal, not ours. It is far, far more difficult to trust in His goodness to hear our prayers, and answer them in the best — His — way.

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  • Joanna Sormunen

    Great post! And so so SO true. I have heard these prayers and I have prayed them myself. Until I finally learned that I am NOT to “tap into God’s power”. God isn’t power, Holy Spirit isn’t power, they are living and loving persons with concience of their own. And their own plans. And I need to learn to trust these plans. It has been hard, and it has been an adventure, and it is the best thing that has happened, but now, mostly, I can pray, let your will be done and help me to accept it. And really mean it!

  • Scale Lily

    So well spoken, I have enjoyed your blog once again. There is definitely a lot of confusion on prayer and faith. Thanks for keeping it real.

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