Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Midweek Meditation: "Impracticality of Prayer"

One of the most common scenes of prayer is the "shopping-list" prayer. We ask for this or we ask for that. We beg for these and we plead for those. Prayer meetings are often those that appear to try to meet the needs of fellow people. These are called "survival prayers," prayers that basically treat all of our requests as "our daily bread." Jacques Ellul makes this observation on how our manner of praying has been influenced by a culture of doing and practicality.

"It is in vain that this realistic society is skeptical. It is entirely given over to doing, and to efficiency. The problem now is that we find ourselves a part of this competition of doing, for prayer has long been understood as a means of obtaining results. Doubtless that tendency has its roots in the Bible. Prayer is presented to us as having power over everything which God has power, over demons, over sickness, over other people, over nature. It is a way of acting upon God, and over everything through him. It is power. Remember the episode of the withered fig tree. With that beginning, by reduction, rationalizing and individualizing, we have come up with a power of prayer. We no longer seek through prayer a conformity of our will with God's will, which makes our speech true, hence efficacious. We seek, rather, to achieve direct results, without bothering about the truth or the special will of God, or with our own obedience." (Jacques Ellul, Prayer and the Modern Man, New York, NY: Seabury Press, 1979, p76-77)

How then shall we pray? We pray with an eye on God's will and less on our will. We pray with a desire to see God's kingdom come, not our kingdom come. We pray to seek God first, and the fulfilment of our desires, a distant second. That's what prayer is about.


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