I wanted to address in this post some of the false notions of prayer that are common in today’s world.
First is the psychological shifting of perceived weight; which is therapeutic projection of letting go and letting God, cast your cares upon Him. In this type of prayer God is more like a metaphysical closet to hide/ dump your burden in, or try to disown them. This kind of prayer is just a psychological exercise of venting and doesn’t really have to do with God at all. The mental health secular world can in this context encourage people to pray and yet not care if there is really a God or not. It is just the act of doing it that is the therapy. Yet this is truly insulting to the person and work of Christ.
People are in trouble when trusting in the “act” of prayer rather than the God to which they are supposed to be praying. It is not a subjective experience of feelings or a magical solution should you get the form and content just right.
It is also wrong to think that praying is only useful in conforming man’s inward heart to God’s, and not really impacting the world. Now I do believe that this occurs (Prayer will change our hearts), but I do not believe this to the exclusion of God using and working in and through prayer. God is not fate, but really and personally listens to the prayers of His people (more about God’s hearing and listening in the next post).
Prayer is not the same as petition only. It is meant to be a heartfelt communicating about more than just the need or desire to ask for things. Think of a close relationship (spouse, BF/GF, close friend, etc.) and what it would be like for you if the only time the person spoke to you was to ask for you to do something for them. I don’t think such a relationship would last very long in human terms.
Prayer is not the same as Eastern or even Christian meditation. Transcendental meditation is to let your mind wander into unconsciousness, and Christian meditation is to reflect upon passages of God’s word seeing freely thinking about how those passages intersect with life and other thoughts that come to mind, but this is not prayer (although I admit it could lead to prayer).
I must say that I also disagree with the Catholic notion of prayers to saints, as if the direct access to God in Christ is somehow obstructed, and the saints provide some other avenue of approach. Is Christ too busy for the prayers of all Christendom? To the degree that a saint has the power, attributes, or inside track on some benefit then it is subverting the authority and honor of Christ who teaches plainly that all men are to come to Him. The living would hardly suggest that any man should pray to another man, so why is this somehow different in death?
Stay tuned for more.
Reference: Adams, Jay E. A Theology of Christian Counseling. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.