Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prayer

In between swimming in my brother’s pool and playing pool with my dad and other brothers, I have been doing a lot of reading while on this long vacation. Believe it or not, I have finished quite a few books since we’ve been here (maybe I’ll post some short reviews later) and among the many I am currently reading is Andrew Murray’s classic, “With Christ in the School of Prayer”. This is one of the most wonderfully devotional books I’ve ever come across. I’ve read a little more than half the book and I’ve already decided that I must have more Andrew Murray titles! His writing not only stretches my mind but it also enlarges my heart. Actually, Mrs. Moogly is also reading this and she is likewise touched by his writing.
This book has 31 chapters of 4-5 pages each which makes it very nice to read as a daily devotional. As a book on prayer, it is also an important work for the individual Christian and the church. Throughout my years as a Christian, I can attest to the lack of primacy given to prayer in the church; and that’s because, I believe, there is generally a lack of interest in prayer among the members of the church. I know. I’ve been there myself; and I still struggle in my desire to pray. We say we believe prayer is important, after all we see our Lord praying often in the Gospels and the New Testament practically commands us to pray. And if we are going follow Paul’s example, we know that we should be in a constant attitude of prayer. We even believe, because the Bible says so, that there is power in prayer and that prayer is the way that we commune with our Father in heaven.
But still…we just don’t do it. Why?
I’m sure there are a number of reasons for this, but I think for the most part it comes down to this: even if we do think God hears us, we don’t believe there is any real power in prayer. We don’t really think prayer changes God’s mind or affects Him at all. We don’t really believe prayer changes or affects anything. Except (maybe) us.
Really? Is that the only reason we are called to pray? So that we will change? Is the “power” in prayer only manifested in the effect it has on the spirit or inner character of the one doing the praying?
Andrew Murray puts it this way: One of the secret difficulties with regard to prayer is the one that though not expressed often hinders prayer. This difficulty is derived from the perfection of God, in His absolute independence of all that is outside of himself. Is He not the Infinite Being, who owes what He is to himself alone, who determines himself, and whose wise and holy will has determined all that is to be? How can prayer influence Him or He be moved by prayer to do what otherwise would not be done? Is not the promise of an answer to prayer simply condescension to our weakness? Is what is said of the much-availing power of prayer anything more than an accommodation to our way of thinking, since God can never be dependent on any action from without for His doings? Is not the blessing of prayer simply the influence it exercises upon us?
Murray then points the way: In seeking an answer to such questions, we find the key in the very being of God, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Murray suggests that the vitality of prayer that not only changes us but also affects real change in the world is found in the very being of God; in the relational life of Father, Son and Spirit. For Murray, then, our prayers should be effectual both within and outside of us: the effect of our prayers upon us is toward our maturity in Christ; the effect of our prayers upon others and the world is…real possibilities!
In my next post, I will let Mr. Murray explain himself as I reprint a chapter from his book, "With Christ in the School of Prayer".

3 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

'We even believe, because the Bible says so, that there is power in prayer and that prayer is the way that we commune with our Father in heaven.'

Agreed.

'But still…we just don’t do it. Why?
I’m sure there are a number of reasons for this, but I think for the most part it comes down to this: even if we do think God hears us, we don’t believe there is any real power in prayer. We don’t really think prayer changes God’s mind or affects Him at all. We don’t really believe prayer changes or affects anything. Except (maybe) us.
Really? Is that the only reason we are called to pray? So that we will change? Is the “power” in prayer only manifested in the effect it has on the spirit or inner character of the one doing the praying?'

Even with a Reformed theology/worldview God can be viewed as influenced through prayer to commit certain actions that he will to do through, at least partially, human prayer.

satire and theology said...

'In between swimming in my brother’s pool...'

If I ever get a job in Florida I will have to lobby for a poolside class...

Water polo at the intermission.

Or if a media job...outdoors.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Yes, if you can be a poolside professor that would be ideal out here; though, as the prof. you may not be allowed to wear your swim trunks.

Too often, I think, we (as "reformed" folk) have an idea of the impassibility of God that really diminishes our understanding of the effectiveness of prayer to change things; even to change God's mind and actions. We in effect, I believe, sever our faith from our prayes when, after we pour out our hearts in prayer, we end by saying nevertheless not my will but thine be done. I don't think we take as seriously as we should the teaching (prevalent throughout the OT and NT) that God really does indeed (sometimes) make His decisions to act either "this way" or "that way" based on our prayers.

I feel that we "reformed believers" have with our teachings sometimes put God in a box of our own logical formulations that effectively shut us out from a fuller and biblical understanding God's participatory relationship with us and the world.

Of course, I could be wrong and Jesus and the NT believers (and OT believers for that matter) were really Calvinists. :-)

Thanks Russ.

And I like water polo...but I just wish the horse I use could swim a little better!