Sunday, July 8, 2012

Prickly Prayer Problems, Part 2: What Prayers Should Believers Pray?

I concur that prayer is a vital part of our life on earth with God. What I wonder is how on earth are we to do it? More specifically than how to pray- as I feel any person can pray in any way they want- is the question of what should be the content of faith-full prayer. As a recovering evangelical/charismatic American Christian, I am concerned over the things I have been oriented to pray for as they seem to reflect more of a Westernized narcissism than a biblically accurate representation of citizens of God's Kingdom.

The prickly nature of this prayer problem is centered in praying for what God cares about. In other words, I wonder how much of our praying energy is wasted offering supplications that waste God's divine time. Should not the content of our prayers match the heart of a God that loves the entire world, not just my world?

Part 1 of this topic highlighted my frustration over my community's obssession with green grass to the point of calling a prayer meeting in our town plaza to ask God to break a serious drought. While this event has lingered in my mind and has had a large effect on the deconstruction of what I considered to be a weak prayer persepective, I believed it was also constructing a healthier and more universally transcendent prayer perspective. I was developing a somewhat arrogant theological perspective that actually limited God's interest in the world rather than expanded it.

I had come to conclude that God was only interested in "big" praying- you know, prayers that centered on real and universal human welfare such as poverty, trafficking, disease and the like. Prayers for parking places, manicured lawns and computer problems were not even to be mentioned as they would not only be a waste of our breath, they would be ignored by a God with bigger fish to fry.

I mention computer problems because it was just recently when my "healthy" perspective on what God seems to care about was severly challenged by someone's prayer for a computer problem.

I know a man who at 78 years old has been an avid lover of God and a professional minister for 50 years. He is perhaps the most disciplined believer I have ever known. He arises hours before anyone else and spends at least an hour in prayer and probably another hour reading the Bible. I have known him my entire life and his focus has always been ministry. I would "label" him evangelical/charismatic/fundamental. He puts in the time.

This man recently felt inspired to write a small book and seek its publication. Essentially the book is about how believers can either grown toward God or away from God by how they align themselves under the Lordship of Jesus. Knowing this man and his theology, I can safely conclude the book to be a fairly narrow expression of a point of view firmly entrenched in Christendom. It would appear legalistice and works-oriented. I have trouble accepting this as a publication that God would favor in our time and place of post-modernism.

That being said, this man was having difficulty finalizing some word processing issues on his computer, mostly related to securing the proper margins in order to submit it to the publisher. Not having a lot of computer experience, he solicited the assistance of a friend who allegedly did. Neither of them were able to solve the problem and had come to an impasse. The natural thing for the man to do at this point was to pray.

He admitted to me that in his prayer he qualified its content to God by acknowledging it was not a big deal for God to solve this computer problem. Nonetheless, he asked God to help him finalize the document that he believed had been God's idea all along. He told me that he went back to the computer and indiscriminately stroked some keys and, thanks be to God, somehow the problem was fixed!

Wow. This really disturbed me on a several levels. First, I wasn't sure this book would accurately reflect God's interest in the first place so having this happen really caused me to question what I considered to be God's will. I would've thought that something that prohibited its publication would've been more in line with what God wanted then to cure the computer thus allowing the process to continue.

This, of course, had to make me wonder that if God really did answer the prayer of this man to solve the word processing challenge, then perhaps I did need to rethink my post-modern theology and consider that what this man had written was indeed an accurate reflection of the God of the universe. Perhaps I need to return to fundamentalism and biblical literalism as staple features of healthy faith.

And another level still is that which no doubt was a result of this event: the man's faith and prayer perspective was more deeply entrenched in him. His prayer life and the content of his prayers was reinforced. Why wouldn't he continue to believe in and pray for things that to me seemed to distract from that which I believed must truly be what God wants to pray for?

Going deeper, this event made me wonder why if this man had God's ear for something as trivial as a computer concern that he didn't go ahead and ask for something more biblical, such as justice for the oppressed or fathers for the fatherless?

Perhaps the most disturbing level at which this event concerns me is wondering if perhaps God is only interested in or able to solve computer problems and that the greater problems of mankind are beyond his ability to resolve. Or perhaps there is something to be said for putting in the time with God as this man has which opens up the windows of blessing for things that to most people would appear insignificant. Does this mean that a believer can and should embrace a position of privilege to which the heathen have neither right nor access? Is Club Christianity really what the gospel is about?

I tend to want to betray this perspective in favor of a God that is not limited to or only interested in the apparent petty and self-serving interests of American Chrsitians. After all, would the children I support in Rwanda ever think to pray that their computer would cooperate? What do they pray about?

Maybe my theology needs to allow for a "bigger" God than the one I thought was under construction. By making him too big for American computer operations perhaps I had limited him to only issues of global grandeur. Maybe my theology represented my on spiritual pride in thinking I had uncovered the God of the Bible and any prayer that didn't meet the standard of transcendent human welfare should not only be avoided but it should be called out.

Maybe God is big enough not only to throw the man whose questionable theological perspective and practice a bone of apparent insignificant blessing but also to address issues that are universally grievious. Perhaps what I am learning is that my prayers should certainly include the "big" stuff without excluding personal issues that the God of the universe has room in his character to care about as well.

My recent car problems would seem to support God's care and concern for problems about which most of the world would not be concerned. I was grateful to God for solving the car's mechanical issues in ways that presented very little inconvenience to me but I also had to wonder about the theological perspective that I had developed about God's concerns and my prayers.

I still want and to choose to believe that God is more interested in human welfare than in technological obstacles. I choose to believe and practice a kind of faith that should put transcendent social issues on the top of any prayer list I use. In fact, no faith perspective should be called healthy that doesn't instinctivley evoke an on-going concern which leads to unceasing prayer for such things.

But lest I do to another extreme what the man of God appears to have done, I have to make room for a God that can be interested in what appears to me to be that which is more insulting to the Divine Nature than appealing.

His ways are not my ways.

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