The Christian Disciplines: Prayer

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“Prayer — secret, fervent, believing prayer — lies at the root of all personal godliness” (William Carey).

Happy Advent! This is my favourite time in the Christian year. We enter a new time in the calendar, one mercifully shorn (unlike Christmas and Easter) of commercial excess. Just remember that Advent is not yet Christmas, so hold off on the New Testament for now and concentrate more on the promise of the renewal of the covenant made in the Old. If you are in Salt Lake, you could have joined with the MCSJ at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I am sure they will plan some Christmas activities.

I have had reasonable success with last month’s discipline (meditation). I have certainly meditated more than I usually do, so I’ll take that as a win. I must admit to being worried about this month’s focus, mainly because when it comes to prayer, my faith is weak. I am with the disciples, who had prayed all their lives but still said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Foster’s chapter on prayer is a challenge because he seems to accept the power of intercessory prayer . . . and I don’t.

Actually, that’s not quite right. I do believe that God intercedes but — to put it rather crassly and soaked in my Mormon upbringing — I do not understand, then, why God will intercede to find one’s keys but is apparently deaf to the cry of millions who need his intercession so much more. Foster really ups the ante here, noting that the apostles never said “thy will be done” when praying for others. They believed they knew the will of God and prayed with faith, expecting it to happen. And it did.

The key is knowing the will of God, and it is there that my focus should probably lie for now, as mostly I’m not sure I know it. If I did, and I knew he wanted the mountain to move, I suppose it would move. As Foster puts it, we are not trying to manipulate God, rather “[w]e are asking God to tell us what to do.” That is better.

As ever, please share your thoughts on the disciplines, whether your successes or failures in meditation, or your feelings about prayer. John Fowles’s musings on Mormon prayer are essential reading.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this. When it comes to prayer, my faith is also weak. I haven’t read the prayer chapter yet, but does Foster see value in prayer qua religious duty?

  2. I didn’t pick that up, Hunter, but it may be there.

  3. I really enjoyed focusing on mediation last month. I tried the “put yourself in the scripture” type (for lack of a better description) and found it incredibly moving. Did anyone else try this? What scripture stories did you use?

  4. I went with whatever the daily office was, but found it unbelievably difficult. I cannot keep my mind still!

  5. I am not so great at prayer, but very good at singing hymns, which lifts my spirits and renews me. My Sundays usually conclude with family hymn singing. I do say other prayers, but prayers scripted and set to music by others is my favorite way to worship. Had I the talent, I would love to compose my own musical prayers. Now that my children are grown, I am re-claiming my singing voice and loving becoming an instrument of song.

  6. melodynew says:

    On the days last month when I made space and time to meditate, I found enlightenment and spiritual nourishment that I honestly don’t get any other way. I didn’t do it every day, but enough to feel the benefit. I’m keeping at it this month too.

    As for prayer, without a doubt, Foster’s suggestion that if prayer is done properly, it will always be answered – was a powerful concept. I felt a faith-swell when I read that. And I believe it. I also loved the concept of “praying over people,” specifically to offer healing blessings. Start small. Practice. See what comes of it. I like this a lot. I also appreciate that he began the book with meditation and prayer: the listening and the talking exchange between us and God. It seems like a natural and logical place to begin.

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