Friday, May 8, 2009

Prayer: Letters Chiefly From Ed

Ed, at Pilgrim.Not.Wanderer has written an excellent piece on the compulsive nature of prayer.  You can find the article here at his site.

Ed's piece reminds me of the words of C.S. Lewis, who, when he was questioned about his prayers to God after his wife, Joy Gresham died, answered "I don't pray because prayer changes God. I pray because it flows out of me; because I need to pray. It doesn't change God; it changes me" (paraphrase from the movie, Shadowlands).

What Ed has described is a compulsivity to prayer. That is, prayer leaps out of us unbounded, joyful, and sometimes mournful, but always free and unfettered, just like the child who can hardly wait to tell his mother or father some exciting tidbit of information -- he can't wait, he just has to interrupt everything else around him to make his voice heard. That is prayer. That is freedom in Christ. That is the enthusiastic impulse of the Holy Spirit in us driving us toward our loving, doting heavenly Father.

Now, though Ed's article was excellently written and very insightful, I did pose one question to him. I needed some clarification on his last sentence, "
Cold and calculative prayers are hardly worthy of the name."

So I posted the following comment on his site.

"But is it worth the discipline? For example, prescribed prayers often help when ex corde moments leave a person without words (e.g., being overwhelmed by an emotional experience and not able to formalize understanding enough to speak
on the experience). In those instances, the calculative nature of a prescribed prayer is valuable -- and definitely worth it -- because prescriptions help verbalise instinctual movements of the heart.

What are your thoughts?

Also, I'm going to link my readership to your article on prayer because I think it is a wonderful piece that touches very tenderly on the intimacy, and compulsive nature of prayer.
Thank you for your insights, Ed." 

Indeed, Ed. Thank you very much for your warm-hearted understanding on such an important topic.

Artwork via Canadian artist Oliver Ray.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love what Ed has to say about prayer.
I think I understand his "cold and calculated" remark, although those words may be too strong.
If you are praying simply as a formula to get what you desire, that may be cold and calculated.
But if you have making your requests known to the Father as part of a natural, ongoing relationship (the way children request things of a loving father or a loving mother), than that is a prayer of relationship -- not formulaic and not cold and calculated at all.
Yes, prayer does change our hearts.
Yes, prayer affects God and eternity.
But, beyond these two things, what is a relationship if it is not living and breathing. God is not some eternal vending machine where we put in what we think is required to get what we desire.
When I pray, I understand the meaning of "deep calling unto deep".
He desires a relationship. We are created for relationship.
Prayer is like the oxygen that fans sparks into a flame. Without it, that relationship would die. Perhaps then it would be nothing but cold and calculated requests.
It would be like speaking to someone only when you have to or when you need something from them, rather than communicating in-between.
Their would no longer be a friendship. It would be more like a casual acquaintance.
It is possible to move from friendship to a casual acquaintance and it is an empty feeling.
If you have had a depth of relationship, you understand what is necessary to keep that alive.
Prayer keeps that alive.
Having said all that, my thoughts about what prayer is have changed. It has broadened.
A whisper, a thought, a song, a spontaneous praise, meditation, a poem, a painting ...
J

Anonymous said...

I was thinking, tonight, that prayer is like the Yukon River. It's far-reaching; we know that. On the surface, it looks like you could swim in it, but just underneath the calm-looking surface lies a powerful undertow. Most of us underestimate the power of prayer because of what we don't see.
Prayer is warfare as well as relationship.
J

Christopher said...

J.,

"I was thinking, tonight, that prayer is like the Yukon River. It's far-reaching; we know that. On the surface, it looks like you could swim in it, but just underneath the calm-looking surface lies a powerful undertow. Most of us underestimate the power of prayer because of what we don't see.
Prayer is warfare as well as relationship."
I have to just say this: wow! Thank you for that analogy, J. What a salient image to use to describe the nature of prayer. Thank you for such a sweet, and insightful understanding.

I have much to think about now.

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