Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Utility of Prayer

I'm impressed by the pervasive use of prayer, wondering often how practitioners conceive of it so that its use survives all circumstance.

I've heard all the chruch explanations and exhortations to prayer. I've heard it called, having a conversation with god. I prefer my conversations to be two sided. The response to this would involve something about being quiet in your prayer closet and waiting for him to speak or something encouraging you to hear him in the many ways he speaks, directly and indirectly. Inevitably indirect communication from god will convientiently linked to other christians.

So, after all this wondering and rote answer I'm left with the impression that a praying person opens up in prayer and reachs out to his god, who in turn does not respond but in the most subtle and hard to decypher manner. The need to believe that god responds is so strong that any situation can be explained away, even with the thinnest viel of reason, or biblical support.

As the praying christian progresses he has to answer all these questions for himself. There is no open conversation about the reality of prayer and the inconsistancies of our experience with the biblical example. Even bring the nature of prayer into question and you will be put down. Those around you will quote the most trite and rote responses, as if you were just born and not sitting in the same class with them for years. Usually this is humiliating and quiets the questioner. If it does not they will begin to look for some flaw or problem in your life, so that they can understand that you are "having a tough time" or just need to "refresh your faith". See the shift? It soon begins to be about your faith. Instead of trying to understand your question you will soon be softly excluded from those members in good standing. Your voice will now be suspect. Your faith is weak or in crisis.

It is not only salvation that you are expected to take on blind faith, but all the modern tenents of the religion. These tenents change over time and in each time they are held sacrosant, as if they were the same tenents and beliefs held by the disciples themself. This particular dulusion could easily be solved by a good study of church history, but this is not a popular topic.

What is the utility of prayer? Why have we done it for so long? Why do we do it?

How can well meaning christians still quote, "ask and you shall receive" and apply it to prayer?

They don't even try to believe that he will respond directly. This simply can not stand up to experience. So they look for subtle environmental clues. The results of a prayer request can survive experience because they will assume any outcome is the one provided by god, even when its the opposite of what they ask for. Minor mental gymnastics can make this all a loving, if cryptic, dialog between fatherly god and loving but weak followers.

The reason questioning is not practiced or approved is the fragile nature of some of these beliefs. They are easily lost. They rest of thin crusts of logic that are too easily dissolved. So these persons of prayer skate blissfully on thin ice and banish anyone from the pond asking if this is all a good idea or not.

Jesus ask you to believe in him. The church will only believe you do if you believe in them too.

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