April 15, 2010

A Prayer For Milk: Part 1 - What Is Prayer?

Dresden, Germany

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Prayer for Milk???

I have been asked about the atheist example for showing how prayer fails.  It comes from a website (found here) that asks the question, “Why won’t God heal amputees?”

Very good question.

This is the first of a three part series on this video. This part goes into the question, “What is prayer?” This is important because it is how most people think we would ask God to heal amputees.

Part 2 dives into the first half of the video. In it, it compares praying to God to praying to a milk jug. It first appears to have quite a convincing argument. But, after further review, I have found it to contain some assumptions that would allure someone into losing faith in prayer and God.

Part 3 continues  with the second half. It is about various studies about prayer. The video only talks about prayer and intercessory prayer. They do not give any information about the faith, beliefs or of the person saying the prayers. In fact, there are parts of the studies that are overlooked and have a huge bearing on how the data is interpreted. But there are studies that take it further. There are more studies that go beyond prayer and expand to the possibility that God, faith and church can be a powerful tool in life.

But for now, the main focus is on prayer, what it is and it’s effectiveness. The video only limits prayer to asking God for material possessions or to grant wishes. Prayer is so much more than that.

To only use prayer
for the purpose of demanding our wishes from God
is to limit the power of prayer.

But, before we begin, we need a firm foundation of what prayer really is. Can prayer be used to ask God for things? Yes, but it is not just that easy. There is more to prayer than saying, “God, I want…..” or “God, give me…. and I will be good.”

Prayer:

  • is a method of communication to God.
  • is a method of praise and worship to God.
  • is a private ordeal. (See an example from Raging Rev found here in his post “False Piety and Prayer.”)
  • is asking for God’s intervention in life.
  • often conveys to God our hearts desire.
  • is much more.

Jesus’ Examples

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane… He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will…
Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done...” 
So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

In The Garden of Gethsemane
Mark 14:32-42
Also found in: Matthew 26:36-46 & Luke 22:39-46

This little passage can show us so much about prayer. How should we pray? Is it OK to ask God for our earthly desires in prayer?

The important pieces that I see are:

  1. He went away, or a little further into the garden. He did not pray in the open hoping that the disciples would hear His plea. He did not ask to pray in a group as with the disciples. He went deeper into the garden to pray in private.
  2. He fell on His face to pray. When was the last time you wanted something so badly that you fell upon your face? When was the last time you wanted something so badly that it made you cry like a sobbing baby?
  3. He did ask the Father for his earthly desire. He did not demand that it be fulfilled. He also knew that there was a bigger plan to be played out.
  4. When He was finished, He knew what His Father’s will was. He immediately obeyed.

Often times, we expect God to fulfill our wish list. We want God to give us all sorts of things. Yet we are not willing to listen to Him. We do not enact His plan for these things to come together. And we expect God to make it happen for us. We expect God to do all the work for us. We won’t even lift a single finger like we lifted our voices in prayer. And, we expect God to fulfill even our simplest request.

Prayer is the language

Image by Lel4nd (busy) via Flickr

Does it mean He does not love us? No.
Does that prove that God does not exist? No.

God wants you to be successful in life. Are you willing to listen to Him to know what He has planned for you?

In this manner, therefore, pray: 
   Our Father in heaven, 
   Hallowed be Your name. 
   Your kingdom come. 
   Your will be done 
   On earth as it is in heaven. 
   Give us this day our daily bread. 
   And forgive us our debts, 
   As we forgive our debtors. 
   And do not lead us into temptation, 
   But deliver us from the evil one. 
   For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen
.

The Lords Prayer
Matthew 6:9-13

Here, we can see some more about what prayer can be used for.

  • praise and worship (Hallowed by Your name)
  • our daily needs (Give us this day our daily bread)
  • Forgiveness. We all need that. (Forgive us our debts/trespasses)
  • Forgiving. It goes hand in hand with forgiveness. (As we forgive our debtors/those who trespass against us)
  • A path to steer us away from evil and temptation (do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
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