“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.