Friday, June 25, 2010

Some thoughts on prayer

Artist: Cornelis Pietersz Bega

This morning I was surprised to stumble upon an article originally published in Tikkun Daily entitled "God Doesn’t Play Favorites: A Religious Person Rethinks Prayer" by a divinity student named Be Scofield.

Mr. Scofield examines the approach to prayer that consists primarily of requests for wish fulfillment. But, sadly, many people's faith rests on this approach. Take a look at an excerpt:
If one abandons the notion that God can intervene in the world to answer prayer God all of a sudden looks much different. Gone is the notion that the Holocaust could have been prevented and was part of God’s divine and “awesome” plan. Gone is the immense power for God to take sides in war as illustrated in the Hebrew Bible. Gone is a God that plays favorites. No longer can God be omnipotent as previously understood because God lacks the power to act in the world. For many who begin to interpret the divine in this non-theistic new light, God then becomes synonymous with love, creative energy and relatedness. Just because the theology of yesterday is insufficient for our modern standards doesn’t mean we need to abandon God, religion or appreciation for the divine.
If you find this excerpt disturbing or shocking, may I suggest spending a little time learning something about process theology - just to get some perspective. I could be considerably illuminating.

I count myself fortunate that my religious formation emphasized prayer as the way we draw close to God and become more Christ-like ourselves - not as a way to get our requests granted.

Therefore, I find myself valuing this outlook:
God is the creative power of existence. Prayer is a radical act of centering and a powerful spiritual practice that helps unite me to the divine. In some ways it is similar to meditation, but it also differs. It is more active, and in prayer I will often imagine people being held and surrounded by love. Or I will visualize transforming fear into hope. I find that prayer attunes me to my deepest and highest self while providing clarity and insight into my life.
What would happen if, just for a while, we practiced abstinence from asking for things in our prayer life - just long enough to experience a radically different kind of prayer. Truly, it could be life changing.

1 comment:

  1. When I pray I make requests, but quite a large part of what I pray for consists of naming people and asking God among other things to provide what they need today (which I intentionally leave vague, somewhere between the concept of God giving them their "daily bread" and also giving them love and helping them to grow in a way they need to). But I can't see that this is very different to imagining people "being held and surrounded by love". Or am I wrong?


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