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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Prayer

I have a group of friends that is reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. We recently read Chapter 15, The Hiddenness of Prayer, which can be viewed here, if you are willing to sign up for a trial offer. It appears there is no free Bonhoeffer on the web.

Bonhoeffer emphasizes the importance of not being too public with your praying. He focuses on Mathew 6:5-6, which provides, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen." Bonheoffer emphasizes that prayer is a time for you to be present with God, and notes that if you are showing off, or even allowing yourself to be distracted by your own pride at how good a pray-er you are, you will blow it and miss the whole point of prayer.

I am also reading The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. (The chapter is available on line, without a free trial offer here.) A friend from Chalice gave me the book and I am really enjoying it. Gibran gives this advice on prayer. "You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. For what is prayer but the expansion of yourself into the living ether?" Not to knock Jesus or anything, but I really like this definition of prayer.

Then both texts provide example prayer. I'll start with Jesus and then quote Gibran.
This, then, is how you should pray:

'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.


I cannot teach you how to pray in words. . . [but] if you but listen in the stillness of the night you shall hear them saying in silence,

"Our God, who art our winged self,
it is thy will in us that willeth.
It is thy desire in us that desireth.
It is thy urge in us that would turn our nights,
which are thine, into days which are thine also.
We cannot ask thee for aught,
for thou knowest our needs before they are born in us:
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself
thou givest us all."
Thoughts?

5 comments:

Medardthoughts said...

Intresting. I am lead to believe that the Our Father is more of a chater for the coming of the kingdom a focusing tool, rather than a method of praying. Verbal prayer when not simply pleading, is an attempt to focus, indeed, it is frequently used as a method of meditation, somewhat akin to Gibran. And I just do not get whtat benefit it is to pray to God who already knows what you want and what will happen. I have trouble with that god. Bill

SportsFan said...

The only prayer that matters is the finger you point at the sky after you score a touchdown. After all, Jesus is clearly rooting for you. The rest is just wishful thinking.

JimII said...

Speaking to the All-knowing befuddles me as well. Prayer as an opportunity to focus/medidate I get. Prayer as a means of expressing and sharing in the suffering and joys of the community I get. But this idea of communicating to the Omnipotent, whether it is the old-time religion, "Heavenly Father, we just want to . . ." or the new age secret of "Sending energy into the universe to . . ." are hard for me.

Anonymous said...

I get irritated at fake, written down "prayers". For example, those recited aloud before a Nascar race. They sound fake, you can tell the people spent hours crafting just the perfect, catchy prayer. Perhaps in hopes that their prayer will be so fantastic that they will be drafted as the next super evangelist? Irritating! If you are going to be fake and insincere, don't pray! As a side note, I find that I pray/give praise more for the good things that happen or for insignificant things(making a stop light, short line at the grocery store, etc) than what I do for bad things such as illness, worrying about paying a bill, etc. Does this mean that I am devoid of real emotions? In denial of all things bad? Who knows, I just find happy prayer better than begging to take away my troubles prayer.

JimII said...

Anon,

I don't know if it irritates me as much as it does you, but I certainly notice when a prayer is prepared and particularly when it is being delivered primarily to those in attendance rather than to God on behalf of those in attendance.

Of course, that might very well be simply a matter of style.

I think it is great, btw, to have most of your prayer life being an expression of joy of the simple pleasures in life.