Aloha Friday Message – March 22, 2013 – Why should I pray?

1312AFC032213 – Why should I pray?

Read it online here, please

1 Timothy 2: 8 – It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or interior dissention.

The prayer of the community should not be spoiled by internal dissension between persons. If we look at Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 6:14, and Mark 11:25, we can see that one way of looking at this is that we must be at peace with one another. I want to expand that a little by again going back to the Greek word for the “interior dissention.” If you look at several translations, you see that there are a variety of terms to express Paul’s charge against internal strife: disputing, controversy, doubting, quarreling, argument, argumentative, or disputing. The word at the end of that verse is διαλογισμός dialogismos {dee-al-og-is-mos’}. This comes from the Greek word for debate, or consider, more at vacillate between ideas; “to go back-and-forth when evaluating, in a way that typically leads to a confused conclusion. The term implies one confused mind interacting with other confused minds, each further reinforcing the original confusion.”

As I reflected on this, I could see, hear, and feel times in my own past when those kinds of vacillating arguments went on inside my mind and heart. I thought about the kinds of dissentions we have among Christians, as well as between Christians and others of different faiths, or for that matter persons of no faith. It is wearying to think of it, and wearying to experience. Endless debates based on endless “new perspectives” and all of that “justified by Scripture” in one way or another. It makes me dizzy to think about it. If I go back to that list of words used as translations for dialogismos, I think maybe all of them go on in our heads when we try to think up and answer for the question “Why do you pray?”

If you are praying, it only makes sense for you to be praying to someone or something. Polytheists prayed to darn near everything – the sky, the sun, the trees, the dirt, the wine, the wind, and all the little invisible creatures that were the spirits of every particle of creation. It is important to be aware that polytheists were not irreligious; in fact, they were very religious. They have gazillions of rights and rituals, and to them it all made perfect sense. In the Abrahamic tradition, we have a position that is against the use of idols and multiple deities. God is One, Spiritual, and does not arise from the work of one’s hands or mind. He simple IS. So, for most of us, when we pray, we are praying to God – Jehovah, El Shaddai, Adonai, El Elyon, Jesus, Yeshua, YHWH. We shy away from the idea that our prayer is merely us speaking to No One, ουδείς (oudeis) pronounced as oo-dEEs. In fact, if you’re just talking to yourself, or talking to empty air, folks generally think of you as crazy. We pray to God because we believe, we have faith that, he hears us.

An even more basic question is, “Why do you have faith that he hears you?” “Because he answers my prayers.” We pray because we believe our prayers are heard. If we didn’t believe that, we would think we are crazy. And this is where a little of the confusing confusion begins to set in. We debate with our “other self” about what we are doing. We have doubt, confusion, and internal quarreling; we become skeptical of our motivation for praying. We have dissention in the ranks as it were, and when we pray, we fail to remember that surprising promise Jesus gave us (see last month’s message) in Mark 11:24.

What do you think about when you reflect on your own prayer life? Do you really expect God to hear you? Suppose you are in church, praying the Lord’s Prayer, for example. Do you pray it or do you recite it? If your congregation proclaims a Creed during your worship service, do you, there in the pew, proclaim it is your profession of faith, or recite it as your duty in the assembly. In either of those portions of the service, do you just stand there silently and wait for everyone to finish? If that is the case, then perhaps your god is ουδείς.

What about your private prayer life? Do you pray for 5, 10, 30, 60, 90 minutes using written or memorized prayers which you read or recite? You can see the point I’m trying to make here. Praying has to be “more than skin deep.” When we pray like the Pharisee who “prayed to himself,” there is really not much value or point for us praying. Nonetheless God hears those prayers. He even hears those unintended prayers we often send up. I think I may have written about this before but I haven’t been able to find it; so here’s what I mean by unintended prayers:

O, my God, really?
Oh God! Now what!
Jesus Christ, that was close!
God ____ it, I already said no.
God, did you see that idiot? (Trust me, God saw the idiot, and heard your contempt.)
Oh. My. God! s/he is so cute!
Gesundheit! God bless you!

You see that most of these fit into the grammatical category of exclamatory remarks. This list also fits into the category of prayers that use God’s name in vain. There are other exclamatory prayers that are – or at least can be – less profane:

LORD God, you are awesome!
Jesus Christ, I love you!
O God, come to my aid for I am in trouble.
Oh, My God, how astounding is your love for us!
Bless the LORD O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.
Gesundheit! God bless you! (If prayed with the intent of blessing, yah?)

God hears all of these prayers because when we say or think his name, he’s paying attention. In fact, the Psalmist tells us: Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. So even when we’re not talking to him, which is exactly what praying is, he is listening, watching, caring, helping, and most of all LOVING us!! How’s that for an exclamatory phrase?

Beloved, I want you to pray, to talk to God, and to fully intend to speak your heart and mind to him. You may ask, “If God knows everything, including what we are going to think or say or do, why do we need to pray?” It’s simple, really. God wants to talk to us. He wants us to hear his voice. He wants to love us and to know that he loves us. God is community, and he wants us to be part of his community. We talk to our friends and v\family. God is both of those and so much more. We are invited to pray, commanded to pray, taught to pray, encouraged to pray, and expected to pray because God wants us to know him. Praying helps us align our lives with his precepts and laws – like Christ’s Law of Love.

And you know, he never gets tired of our asking. It’s OK, in fact encouraged, to be persistent in prayer. Where we humans sometimes run into problems is when we get offended when God does not do as we tell him to. As if God should be at our command! Beloved, if you already pray often then pray deeper. If you pray infrequently, learn to pray often. If some of your prayers are unintended, remember God is listening; do you really want to have those prayers be included in your list of petitions? Wouldn’t you rather be offering him sacrifices of thanks and praise?

Cancer Prayer Candle

Cancer Prayer Candle

This past week I received many requests for prayer for persons who are ill – many with cancer, some of whom are terminal, some in treatment, and some (like EL, thanks be to God!) in remission. So, if you know someone who has or has had cancer, please take 30 seconds right now and pray for them and for all the others who have written in to ask for prayers. I’m going to give you this little prayer candle as a reminder. Maybe you could pass it on to them.

 

 Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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