Why Do We Pray? 3 – To Change Ourselves?

I want to make a distinction on this point. It’s true that devoting ourselves to a rule of prayer will almost certainly change us. Even the act of making space in our lives for such a rule of necessity alters the rhythm of our days. On the other hand, I’m not willing to say that’s the purpose of Christian prayer rather than simply one of its effects.

Why am I making that distinction? I think, at least in part, it’s because I’ve followed many sorts of spiritual practices over the years, from Hindu meditation to tarot to transcendental meditation to various forms of power visualization. When you adopt any sort of spiritual practice, it of necessity shapes and changes you.

In some ways, it’s like adopting a physical regimen of exercise or practice. If you swim every day, you will generally become a better swimmer. If you lift weights, you will tend to become stronger. If you run, you will eventually become a runner. If you practice the regimen of P90X (first or second version) as my younger son has done for years, that regimen will shape your body.

There are Christian disciplines specifically designed to change us. Fasting, for instance, helps break the grip of the physical passions while almsgiving helps break the grip of the more pervasive and destructive passions like greed and envy.

But I don’t think that’s the central purpose of prayer, otherwise some form of Christian meditation would suffice. No, I believe prayer has a deeper purpose, one I’ll pursue in subsequent posts.

Thoughts?

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2 Comments

  1. Posted March 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Just found your blog and I’m so grateful! As a gluten-intolerant girl passionate about food, faith, and engaging in life in a real way, I love the things you’re discussing.

    Prayer has always been a struggle for me, but as I’ve moved away from the Calvinist viewpoints I was raised with and into a more open space with Jesus rather than a particular theologian as my faith, I am constantly seeing new aspects of it.

    A few things that I’ve learned are:
    1. Prayer is an active discipline that is difficult to define. Sometimes movement is my prayer to Jesus my Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Sometimes laughing is my prayer. Sometimes my prayers take the form of crying and angry yelling. They frequently take the form of silence and stillness. All of that is okay.
    2. Prayer doesn’t earn me any points with God any more than my best friend gives me points for calling her, but both are essential to the health of the relationships.
    3. Prayer, in a mysterious way, has an effect on reality and potential reality, even while both of those things are tainted with sin and evil. It somehow influences good in every situation, even if the outcome is surprising or disappointing. I pray because even though my viewpoint of a certain situation or possibilities are limited, God’s are not and he has said that my interaction with him can change reality. (Though it doesn’t change him. Language seems a very sloppy way to define the difference.)

    I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts as I continue to ask God to give me more of his.

  2. Posted March 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this. I would tend to say that we want to move toward prayer of the heart, in which we are not mentally or verbally necessarily using words at all. But that’s difficult and we need the discipline of a prayer rule to move in that direction. I do plan to write a little on that topic.

    And yes, I will definitely have to discuss the interaction between prayer and reality. I’ve been mulling those thoughts as well.

    Thanks again and I hope living gluten free is going well for you. Celiac? Or a non-celiac form of intolerance?

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