The Opinion Of Prayer

Prayer might mean the same thing to you as it does to the majority of the rest of the western world. Or if you are a Christian it may only be a shared vocabulary. Often when some sayings or common nomenclature are said, your worldview interprets what is heard to what is understood. Quite often this can take meaning out of what someone says, or may even make an individual prejudicial towards another person, even though there is no shared worldview between the two parties. Take for instance; someone says “I will pray for you”. The word pray or prayer has a varied definition from person to person depending on their worldview. This is especially confusing when it becomes a widely adopted way of speaking, by the public in North America. It’s not only “I will pray for you”, but also “thoughts and prayers” and its many variations. It seems people want to convey some sort of condolence, but with a word that gives the illusion of action.

Prayer is an illusion to most people, to those people who say the words and leave it at that, rather than say the words and then pray. The power and meaning have been widely taken out of the word itself and no longer describes the appealing to God, but to convey a sense of emotion. There was a “thoughts and prayers” fad, that has only recently been busted up by countless memes and twitter posts. This fad has not been called out because of its lack of truth and intention, thought on the surface that is what would seem to be the case, but rather to the large amount of people seemingly praying for events and people and the evil in the world, yet these prayers are seen as going unanswered. It is as if saying the words “thoughts and prayers” to someone, are perceived as to be an appeal to God that somehow we are expecting God to answer and eliminate any reason that precipitated the thoughts and the prayers to begin with. Though many will overlook the obvious case, that saying the word praying or stating the intention to pray is really just words and not a prayer in and of themselves. This seemingly obvious fact can be overlooked because people need something to blame, a reason why evil keeps on occurring shooting after shooting, disaster after disaster, despite the entire western world sending out thoughts and prayers! The subject of evil and the impact prayer would have is a different subject. But this example just stands to show how the idea of prayer in the western world is not being held by any sort of universal definition nor is it precipitating action necessarily.

Prayer is a word of action, and not only the appeal to God to act for us, but to appeal to God to provide for us opportunities to act. Or to give us strength to act in a way we already know we need to, but lack the confidence to do so. Nothing about prayer is passive, even when praying for thanksgiving it is to give thanks for everything God has given us, and action he has taken for us. Saying you will pray for someone has no power. Praying for them, and I would say praying out loud with them carries divine power, and we are appealing to the creator himself. Praying with someone also does not leave the person needing prayer wondering or questioning if prayer is actually going to occur. There is a peace of mind with the Christian when prayer is said and heard out loud between each other.

And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. -Luke 22:43-44

Jesus engaged with the world in prayer. He himself prayed to his Father several times, and I must mention that not all responses from the Father were what Jesus wanted. Such as the praying in the garden of Gethsemane described in Luke 22:43–44. Praying was not a new thing in the time of Jesus, people prayed to all sorts of pagan gods and idols. The need for instruction for prayer is illustrated by his disciples asking Jesus how to pray in Luke 11:1. With these verses in mind we should take a second and think about how we are instructed to pray every time we hear the word prayer mentioned in passing or to us in our day-to-day lives. Prayer has taken on false meaning and illusions in the western world, so it is important to remember why we pray and the act upon the word and partner with God through prayer.

Couple Questions, Couple Answers, Cliché Nature Photo

     According to some estimates there are around 4,200 religions, with such a large number of religions, it comes as no surprise that there is an equally varying amount of opinions on God.
     I asked a friend of mine a few questions, knowing full well he did not associate with Christianity necessarily, or any other religion. But what I did know was that he has a good sense of logic and reason when given facts. So, what I got was a perspective likely shared by many today, a valid perspective and a glimpse into another person’s worldview.
     I posed the question, “do you believe in God or creator and could this God/creator be reached?” In return my friend gave me a response that I am not quite sure I saw coming, he said, “yes I do (believe in a creator). I am a strong believer in science. I have read a lot of scientific theories published by Hawking, Einstein, and others.” Immediately I notice that, though Christianity is not the basis of his decision, what he has read and seen has given him enough reason to come to the logical conclusion of a coexistence of religion and science. He goes on to say, “The old division of either believing in religion or science is a thing of the past. Currently, they support each other.” It seems there is a strong belief, which seems to be bred by science, that in order to reach God we will see enough scientific advancement to do so. My friend supports that by saying, “the idea of another existence, which we may choose to call Heaven is entirely possible and entirely reachable with the right science.” I would think a new age religious person might substitute ‘the right science’ and put ‘the right god’ in its place.
     This way of thinking seems to be how people can be religious, by having the same values, beliefs, and a sense of an intelligent creator, but yet remain religiously detached. This detachment is not all that surprising, even as my friend put,“I usually raise my eyebrows at people who use god to get out of a sticky situation, or use his name to justify questionable behavior. I don’t believe merely asking for forgiveness should be an effective get out of jail free card. That being said, those actions are not Gods fault, but rather the person.” It would seem that religions are not necessarily self defeating in themselves, though the people who practice them often make the decisions for people quite easy.
     Christianity itself has varying opinions on God. Many Christians have been taught one thing as children but then realize it is another when they get older. Based on their own experiences they develop their own worldview and perspectives. With one God, we don’t need simply one perspective, because some things are just simply left to be the mystery of God. As a Christian, commonality is found through Jesus. It is important that we look at how our lives are effecting the opinions of others in an anti-religious way, simply because of our own actions. If we are followers of Jesus then our actions ought to reflect positively towards the existence of God.

Check out this spoken word by Jefferson Bethke on Jesus and Religion. His book is also a good read.