Thursday, March 12, 2015

Verbosity in prayer

The efficacy of prayer in not grounded in the verbosity of the orant, but rather in the good disposition of the Father to respond to his children. The recitation of the LP [Lord's Prayer] is not an exercise in magic. Proper working is important, but this prayer is more than just a formula or a transaction. It is an expression of relational trust in the God who sees and hears.—David A. Clark, The Lord’s Prayer: Origin and Early Interpretations (PhD diss, University of Nottingham, 2014), page 230

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Amen and amen! A healthy corrective to some (throughout history) who see the Lord's Prayer as some kind of magic key. This ties in nicely with the thoughts in Cursed Are You!—the power isn't in the words or the rituals. The power is in the god(s) that are invoked.

In Christianity (and Judaism), there is the realization that you can't rope God into doing what you want. Well, let me qualify that! Seeing the rampant spread of Word of Faith/Name it, claim it! theology, one must qualify it : ( In Christianity that operates in the great tradition there is the realization that you can't control God by certain ritual ways of saying things or by conjuring up faith. God is dependable, certainly, but he isn't controllable. He is faithful, but he is not your personal genie.

This is in stark contrast to the carefully described rituals that you find in the ANE curse texts and anti-curse texts. The goal is to control the gods, to make them obey you. Sure, ultimately it is their decision, but you can heavily influence their decision. This is also true in the classical Greek and Latin tradition. Think of Odysseus reminding the gods of his sacrifices to the gods when he petitions them as just one example. The Romans, as always, were meticulous in their religious routines.

After reading Cursed Are You!, I've become even more convinced that as Christians, we still far too often think in those lines. We think we can manipulate God—that we can coerce him into doing what we want. Think of fasting as just one example. Scot McKnight, in his marvelous little book Fasting, calls this the instrumental view of fasting. We fast in order to get God to answer. Wrong!

When we take that view of things, we are trying to manipulate God. We have reduced him to a thing to be controlled. We have gone back to the garden and committed the same sin that Adam and Eve did: We want to be God rather than godly. We want God to obey us rather than submit to him.

I would further submit that we do it because we don't really believe that God is good and loving. We think he has a hidden grudge against us. After all, we put his son to death. We fight him all the time.

How would you respond if one of your kids did that? Or, how long would a pet last in your house if it kept peeing on your pillow every night? Once again, we reason from the given (our reaction) to the divine. We create God in our own image.

I believe that holiness is getting rid of that warped picture of God. Wesley described it as "feeling nothing in your heart but love toward God and your neighbor." And he believed it was attainable in this life. Scripture seems to point to it as being attainable—just read 1 John!

OK, that was a long rabbit trail, wasn't it? or maybe it was just an
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