Jump to content

Integral View Of Prayer


Recommended Posts

(This topic is not about whether intercessory prayer 'works, is superstitious, etc.)

 

Bruce Sanguin discusses an integral view of prayer in his blog.

 

Does God Answer Prayer?

 

an excerpt

 

The short answer is that it depends on one’s worldview:

 

Traditional:

Yes. If you don’t get what you prayed for, just remember that God’s ways are not our ways, and who knows if that “no” might not be, in the great scheme of things, the way things were meant to be.

 

Modern:

No. It’s all superstition.

 

Postmodern:

Define your terms. Define “answer”. Define “God”. Define “prayer”. Most folks here, especially those who are “spiritual but not religious”, regard intercessory prayer as the kindergarten of the prayer world, and prefer to meditate.

 

Post-postmodern:

Here, you are willing to take another look at prayer. You might imagine God as the Unified Whole of which you are a part, and yet which is not itself a part of any greater whole. You might even imagine this Whole in personal terms—not necessarily “a” being, totally separate from you, but rather the personalization of Being Itself. Let’s call that Love. Your own evolving personhood is an expression of That.

. . . .

 

If we refuse to offer intercessory prayers are we denying Spirit a voice? Is it possible that our intercessory prayers are in themselves God’s way of answering prayers?

 

 

 

I see this as a reminder that we say what makes sense to us at our location on the journey and we can't claim our view as Truth. Bruce also has good language to describe "ultimate reality".

 

Dutch

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

Hiya, Dutch. This is an interesting and important topic. For my input, I'll simply post what I wrote recently for a family sharing time course called Natural Christianity. You can find the rest of the course, if you'd like, in our Resources section.

 

Let’s now talk about prayer. In traditional Christianity, prayer is often seen as a way to get God to do something that he would otherwise not do. But for Natural Christianity, prayer is simply awareness of our communion with God. In prayer, we become aware of our spirit-to-spirit connection to God who gives us life and this helps us to see things from our Creator’s perspective.

 

Therefore, for Natural Christians, prayer isn’t usually about asking God for things. God has already given us everything that we need to build happy, meaningful lives if we would use these resources wisely. So prayer is, for us, an attitude of thankfulness for all that God has given us and also involves fine-tuning our human will to what God wants us to do, to the way that God wants us to live. Therefore, prayer is more than just talking to God; it is also listening to God. This doesn’t mean that God's voice will come out of the clouds, but we’re convinced that God can help us think of some solutions to our problems and to guide us in wise actions in response to life’s challenges. Prayer provides a means of focusing our attention on problems in a way that may open our minds to possible solutions. There is nothing wrong, of course, with expressing our best hopes in prayer to our Creator. After all, he has planted those hopes in our heart. But the heart of our prayers, rather than asking God to act, is asking God how we should act, how we should be involved to see his will done on earth – learning to love God and to love others.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dutch,

 

On Intercessory prayer. Since we are not addressing whether prayer is superstition or works i will be brief. To me, and in my experience, effective intercessory prayer is the realization of connection with the whole where there is no separation, time, or distance, or natural law limitation and when that connection is made the answer to the issue is present whether it be an at peace with the issue, an inclination or word for action or an unction with power that is able to declare and see the evidence of that which cannot be seen but will certainly manifest itself. (yes, in the last part as in the supernatural though perhaps one day it will not be considered as such)

 

Just my contribution,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me, prayer is not about asking God to change the course that lies ahead, but rather to grant to me, as well as any other involved, the guidance and support to travel it as well as I (or we) might.

 

The path I traveled as companion to my sister a few years ago when her daily life journey came to be centralized around cancer treaments and coping with the devastating effects of her illness for five years was one on which we both relied heavily on that "source" of our faith, to sustain, strengthen, guide, at times, just keep us taking the steps we had to travel each day. To us, for us, God, or whatever any would name that source of strength and guidance, got us through it as best we might have. But to many others engaged in the concept intercessory prayer as asking God to change the reality that was, God "chose not to answer" our (their) prayers.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

To me, prayer is not about asking God to change the course that lies ahead, but rather to grant to me, as well as any other involved, the guidance and support to travel it as well as I (or we) might.

 

This makes sense to me, Jenell. At church, like most churches, we have "prayer & praises time." It is good, imo, that people share what is going on in their lives with one another. It gives us opportunities to "be there" and to help one another, either as inidivuals or as a community. But this church believes "prayer changes things" and as I listen to the prayers, it is evident that the pray-ers are asking God to intervene and do something in the best interest of other.

 

The "praises" part of this ritual are opportunities for people to share how God has answered their prayers and, of course, they usually have a positive spin to them. They almost serve as little "proofs" that prayer works. Just being honest, I've sometimes wondered if we should name this ritual "prayer, praises, & disappointments." ;)

 

During prayer time at my Methodist church, after a person or a situation has been named, the congregation replies with, "Lord, hear our prayer." The pastor is going down a long list of prayer requests, so we will chant, "Lord, hear our prayer" about 20 times during this part of the service. I realize that it is part of the tradition, part of the liturgy, but it seems to me to imply that God is going deaf and needs to be constantly reminded to listen to us. :)

 

I've always struggled with the Christian concept of prayer. When I was 10, my dog got hit by a passing car (stupid dog always chased cars). She was pretty busted up inside and I prayed and prayed that God would heal her. She died anyway. I didn't understand why. I mean, if God was all-powerful and could do anything, why couldn't he heal my dog? It wouldn't have taken that much of his "miracle-working ability", would it?

 

I agree that God is a Mystery. But those that claim that "prayer works" are saying that this Mystery can be controlled, manipulated by humanity to change reality. This, in my experience, has not been the case.

 

For me, I know that "prayer works" from an internal perspective, that the way I pray does change my attitudes and actions about things. But I'm skeptical that "prayer works" from an external perspective, that it changes reality around us.

Edited by billmc
addition
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bill, sounds like your observations and thoughts on prayer as it is often presented in church and religious communties, as well as some of the problems with that, and your perception of what prayer itself is or may be, as well as what it may be TO anyone, are quite close to my own.

 

I especially agree with what you allude to about "need to fee in control", some seeming to need to feel they have, or at least have the potential for, controlling God and events beyond our normal human range of influence. There is no doubt many events in life leave us feeling powerless, that causes a natural frustration, for which there are more or less healthy and functional/dysfunctional ways of trying to deal with that. Confronting our ultimate helplessness is a hard part of attaining toward psychological, emotional, and spiritual maturity. Unfortunately, it does seem some very dysfunctional perceptions and responses to that inevitable psychological challenge have become deeply entrenched within not only the structures of doctrines within organized religion, but personal traditions handed down within families, religious communities, even the general culture at large.

 

I have had to try to learn, keep present in mind in relating to others, that you challenge or threaten the illusory sense of security, power to control, at your own risk of what can be some pretty angry and desperate attempts to defend and maintain that illusion.

 

The most compelling aspect of this, for me, my own reactions to my awareness of this problem, has always been the downright cruelty inherent in such a position at the very practical, personal human level of experience. It is all too easy a side-step from the ambiguious matter of whether one's prayers being answered, or not, is "God's will" or choosing to do so or not, to (enter the need to feel in control factor) that of if your prayers are ineffective, it must be your own fault, or the fault of the one you are praying for in intercessory prayer, because if you were "doing it right" or "in a right relationship with God", or with enought sincere faith, your prayers would have "succeeded" in changing God's plans, inciting God to intevene in the natural processes in the situation.

 

"Prosperity doctrine" is pretty much generally regarded with disdain within most religious communities, yet it is widely accepted by those using cognitive copiing devices, Ego defenses, to avoid recognizing and confronting its presence among and within the group and accepted religious tradition.

 

Through a number of difficult situations in my own and others, often loved ones' lives, this conflict has repeatedly strained, and in some cases, ultimately ended some of the personal relationships with family members, friends, aquaintances, that hold such views in this as I find cruel and destructive. Such conflicts over the 5 yr course of my younger sister's illness and eventual death to Ovarian cancer in which I felt both my own and my sister's faith and "obedience" and "right relationship with God", even our very state of "salvation" were under constant attack by some members and even whole small family groups within our larger family, resulted in some of them failing to attend her funeral, or even send their condolences. For not having been running here and there to every so-called miracle faith healer, such as the infamous Toronto and Brownwood "revivals, we had not really done all that we could have to "save her life", even to intimate or outright state that as evidence she nor I "really wanted her to get well."

 

A few years before that, while attending a church service not long after a horrible family tragedy involving the sudden accidental death of my 5 week old grand son, still very raw over it, the preacher, an Evangelist visiting to conduct a "revival" actually worked into his sermon a "sermon illustration" of a family that had fallen out of regular attendance and relationship with their church, who had ignored their pastor's "warnings" that God would punish them if they didn't "get right with the church", suffered the sudden illness and death of their infant! That stands as one ofthe most horrible church experiences of my life, as feeling utterly ripped apart inside, I made my way out with the greatest difficulty, unable to even speak, probably apprearing as something of a drunk staggering outside before puking in the parking lot, then sitting for many minutes in my car before I was able to drive away. What was even worse than such a horrible thing for a preacher to say, was the look of rapt attention with heads nodding in aggreement across the expanse of the congregation.

 

I know I am not unique in having recognized that, and perhaps one reason I am often more open about my "Progressive" kind of religious perspective if that I would hope to be an example to show others experiencing that same kind of recognition and pain caused by those attitudes, that there ARE Christians that abhor such things. At the time of that experience for me, i did not know that, felt very isolated in my grief, and yes, anger...no, the better term, rage, at the "God" image I was at the time very much in the process of rejecting completely and permanently.

 

An aspect of this to me that is so contradictory to my perception of faith and God image is that even within those religious communties, at the same time, there are doctrines and traditions alluding to the need for that tate of "brokenness", of having actually come to realization of our true state of utter helplessness and powerlessness, in coming to true relationship with God, through Christ. But it seems that has gone terribly awry with the insertion of the idea that once having done so, the reward is to gain power to control events in our lives through controlling, being able to command, God, through "right behavior", "right beleifs", and commitment to an irrational faith in the "power of prayer." And ultimately of course, the ultimate power is held only in the hands of those promising to help us learn and know how to do that.

 

 

There is no other designation for those kind of attitudes, in my mind, but the lowest and most inhumane and cruel response to the suffering of others.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joseph wrote: "To me, and in my experience, effective intercessory prayer is the realization of connection with the whole where there is no separation, time, or distance, or natural law limitation and when that connection is made the answer to the issue is present whether it be an at peace with the issue, an inclination or word for action or an unction with power that is able to declare and see the evidence of that which cannot be seen but will certainly manifest itself. (yes, in the last part as in the supernatural though perhaps one day it will not be considered as such)"

 

This presents a very interesting aspect of the nature and "power" of intercessory prayer that I feel truly goes beyond present concensus of realilty that we've touched upon elsewhere within these forums...that of what is now generally considered "supernatural", the hocus-pocus of proclaimed psychics and ESP just as much as within religious community perceptions/interpretations of such things being of communication with God through prayer. I've mentioned else where my experiences that seem to me an ability or capacity to actually percieve beyond rational senses, something of emotions and events in others' lives. And that my view on those things are that some natural phenomenon that human technology and science simply hasn't dsicovered yet.

 

Now if there truly is a vast "shared consciouusness" beyond our limited individual experience of consciousness, that at least at somme times and under some circumstances, can facilitate intercommunication between individuals and other elements of this "shared cosmic consciousness" we might at times become aware of, then this does open the way for "real" effects of intercessory prayer. If one of us in our state of prayer or "constant prayerfulness" as well as the recipient toward whom and in who's behalf we have sincere concern and love and desire to lend support, or even hold any strong feelings annd thoughts in the oppositve direction, of despising, jealousy, hate, etc, then it would seem to me possible that both ourself amd the recipient, whether consciously or unconsciouusly, may participate in some level of communication of thoughts and feelings.

 

That others in close connection may be "sending out" or "radiating" any particularly sincere strong emotion, feelings, toward another, might by this have a very "real" effect on another. Whether one suffering difficulties feels loved, supported, cared about, or the converse, criticized, judged, rejected, abandoned, by others, in their difficulties, might certainly be at least in part ones internal response to what others are "sending" in their direction, invisibly, without open verbalization. I think most of us can think of times, experiences, when in complete contrast of what others may be expressing only, at odds with their words, behaviors, actions, the sense they really felt quite differently toward us, that those outward indicators are a false front, a facade, for very different true feelings.

 

I think many of us have also experienced this in different contexts, say, when we have come into contact with a seriously passive-aggressive person. The classic example is the too-sweet, too openly affectionate, too obliging, too self-depreciating, too humbled sweet little old lady that for some inexplicable reason makes you feel like there are shards of glass penetrating the mind and emotions as when you are near or in contact with her, or the outwardly benign, non-threatening, even seeminly friendlyand helpful person that sets your intuitive alarm bells ringing at high decible levels.

 

Young children are far more sensitive to this than most of us as adults, and this was a point strongly stressed in context of a course I took on child maltreatment and abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual. Parents and other adult caregivers need to be more aware of this than they generally are. The child's sensivitivity in this regard, is often not only disregarded, but their natural intuitive self-protective instincts dulled and eventually disabled as parents actually scold them out of embarrassment, or even inconveneince, telling them to stop acting like that, quit being a baby or acting silly, or accused of just throwing a fit to get their own way.

 

Likewise, by the same mechanisms, might our sincere, genuine feeliings of love, care, support, for another, be truly, actually, really, conveyed to that other through some as yet unknown and understood channel. To be experiencing the love, care, desire to support, coming at one from many other people might indeed feel like being bathed in a kind of Divine Love emanating from a "supernatural" or "higher power" source.

 

Jenell

 

 

Edited by JenellYB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Scott Atran (In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion) says, "L. Brown (1994, The Human Side of Prayer) found prayer to be a stress-reducing means to deal with the existential anxiety that accompanies uncontrollable events."

 

I think that intercessory prayer is efficacious for this reason as it gives one a sense of doing something about matters over which we otherwise have no control.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

To Jenell, your post touched me deeply in that though I certainly haven't walked in your shoes, I've experienced similar circumstances. We (Christians and otherwise) can discuss and argue the theological views and ramifications of this subject, but when the rubber hits the road in real-life circumstances, people can either be helped or harmed by how we view prayer.

 

My youngest sister, whom I love dearly, lost her 8-month old son a few years back to medical complications that neither the doctors nor anyone's "prayers" seemed to be able to heal. She has always known me to be a "religious person" and wondered, at her son's funeral, why God hadn't healed him, why God had taken him. Maybe she thought I had some inside track to the answers. But I had no answers. I couldn't tell her why her prayers weren't answered. I couldn't tell her why, in her words, "God has taken my baby." And I certainly didn't tell her that God needed another angel up in heaven or that it was for the best or that they could have more kids (ala the book of Job). All I could do was to be there and to cry with her. That was no time, even if I had a theology of prayer that worked for me, to discuss theology. She was in deep pain and needed to know that she was not alone in her pain.

 

God knows that there are a lot of external things that I would change if I could. And though I have to be honest and admit that I have occassionally (but very rarely) seen some "strange things" happen in supposed answer to prayer, I'm not ready to put it into some kind of gumball theology that says if you say the right words or have the right faith or have the right condition of the heart, then you have God's ear and will move his hand.

 

Maybe prayer is a way for us to admit our pain, our fears, our terror at being alone in the universe, I don't know. Practically, I think it is a good way for us to share where we are in our lives so that we can minister to each other. But I just can't accept that it is akin to rubbing the side of magic lantern in order to cause a genie to appear who will do our bidding, even if some Christians and some Bible verses say that it operates this way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I didn't get quite what I expected - what a blessing! What interested me when I posted that link and quote was the stages of development as expressed in Integral thinking. It is similar to Fowler's stages of faith and Peck's? After reading your responses I had to step back and reflect because of the depth of your answers.

 

Bruce Sanguin concludes his post

  • If we refuse to offer intercessory prayers are we denying Spirit a voice? Is it possible that our intercessory prayers are in themselves God’s way of answering prayers? Our love and compassion goes out and into this seamless, interconnected universe and is brought to bear on illness, loneliness, and grief. It’s not a distant God intervening, but the God within our very own sighs of compassion and longing for wholeness.

Your responses and his don't avoid the language of intercessory prayer but take it deeper and wider in a self transcendent movement.

 

It has become 'articulate-able' to me that the Modern's "It's superstitious." seems a childhood and adolescent stage of development - a moment of doubt, disappointment, and an effort to be an adult. Many get stuck here in anger and alienation. Others are not able to take the next step due to their sub-culture, models available to them, own inclinations and perhaps genetics. But the Modern stage has the potential to push one deeper through doubt.

 

Your responses and Sanguin's Integral view says to the Modern, "That's OK. I know how you feel." without any condescension. And we may be in a place to put those thoughts into action as Bill and Jenyll have related.

 

I think there is continuum from the primitive expressions of relationship with ultimate reality such as sacrifices to satisfy the angry gods or to invoke friendly gods - exterior actions as ego centric attempts to control the exterior forces - to our ideas of of being at one with ultimate reality - a self transcendent inaction of profound effect. The development of Israelite need for the exteriority of a Divine Warrior to the development of the interior beliefs after the return to Jerusalem after the exile is one example.

 

Thanks

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I want to apologize to anyone who takes offense at any negative terms I used in discussion of the Modern stage. Any ladder or steps of development has that inherent problem of not seeing some stages as inferior to others. Ulitmately I don't feel that way but I was not able to overcome that problem. I apologize.

 

Dutch

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

Dutch, I enjoyed Sanguin's article immensely. In fact, I like most of what Brian writes (though much of it is way over my head). And I hear you on the possibility of perceived negative terminology, it's a challenge for me also. Unfortunately, we mainly define things in terms of differentiation -- how what we are describing is different from something else -- and that effort can naturally lead to positive/negative dualisms or to better/best analogies.

 

In many areas, I try to be syncretistic, to bring together what I think is the best ideas and concepts of things. I, of course, am probably wrong more often than I am right in my conclusions or my tenatively held presuppositions (my nickname is "often wrong, but seldom unsure", couldn't fit all of that into my forum handle, maybe I'll change it to OWBSU), but I am simply trying to get beyond the dualism that was instilled in me since my youth. I try to get beyond the black and whites and see the shades of gray.

 

At the same time, imo, there is sometimes the necessity of "calling a spade a spade." I can find no way to reconcile or harmonize a Ptolemaic model of the solar system with a Copernican one. Or a flat earth with a spherical one. Of course, these subjects lie within the "physical realm" and human tradition says that the "spiritual realm" is much more slippery, not subject to the same "laws", so-to-speak.

 

For me, and this is just for me, I don't believe in a dualistic "physical realm" and "spiritual realm." I tend to think that reality is all spiritual because, imo, it came from the Great Spirit. And I find it doubtful that the Great Spirit would be so capricious as to go around messing with what we call the "physical realm" in response to "spiritual requests" for upgrades. :) I understand that mindset because I was raised in a Pauline form of Christianity where we were taught that the physical realm was essentially "not real", but I just don't buy into that anymore. There is, imo, too much evidence for the reality of reality. :)

 

Nevertheless, given our short lifetime as a sentient species and as individuals, it is somewhat infantile of us to claim to know everything about reality and "how it works". We must remain humble if we are to learn and grow. But, again imo, this doesn't preclude us from saything that we know "more" about many things than our ancestors did and they were, in some cases, simply wrong about how they understood reality. Most of them, if reality is real, are no longer around to be offended that we don't see things the same way that they did. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, we mainly define things in terms of differentiation -- how what we are describing is different from something else -- and that effort can naturally lead to positive/negative dualisms or to better/best analogies.

 

Bill, I know this is a digression, but differentiation is inherent in language. Imagine trying to communicate with a language structure in which every word can mean everything or anything. So, while this can lead to dualisms and hierarchies of value, it is necessary for meaningful communication.

 

Someone has said that nothing exists as a separate identifiable thing in our world until it is given a name.

 

Sorry again for the digression.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

JenellYB, on 13 August 2011 - 01:08 AM, said:

To me, prayer is not about asking God to change the course that lies ahead, but rather to grant to me, as well as any other involved, the guidance and support to travel it as well as I (or we) might.

 

billmc replied......This makes sense to me, Jenell. At church, like most churches, we have "prayer & praises time." It is good, imo, that people share what is going on in their lives with one another. It gives us opportunities to "be there" and to help one another, either as inidivuals or as a community. But this church believes "prayer changes things" and as I listen to the prayers, it is evident that the pray-ers are asking God to intervene and do something in the best interest of other.

 

While i would agree with Jenell that prayer need not be about changing the course ahead and does provide guidance and support, and... i would also agree with Bill that many may pray in such a manner that they are always asking God to intervene and do something in the best interest of other ....thinking God changes things.......

 

I would not rule out the possibility that when a genuine awareness on the prayers part of a connection with God is made, God does indeed intervene as the divinity that is inherent in the individual praying. As i have said before either providing peace with no change in the issue at hand, a word of guidance that provides the impetus for the individual praying to intervene, or provides the unction and anointing to go beyond the natural to alter laws we are familiar with to change or eliminate the issue by spiritual manipulation of the natural in harmony with the words declared. Or a combination of the 3.

 

I believe this is what Jesus did and what all are capable of doing that realize that connection. This is participation in the kingdom of God with power but this is seldom taken because it is rejected as a possibility and thus shut off from consciousness. Therefor, in my experience, this individual participating in the more so-called supernatural works of God by conscious union with the spirit of God is rare. It is my experience that all prayer is heard by God even before spoken but the answer being received is dependent on a realized 2 way connection that when successfully realized, if even for a moment, is void of doubt and limitations.

 

My point of disagreement, if any, is that i do believe God intervenes and changes things by using those willing in both natural and supernatural capacities. Whether that is viewed as God intervening or us doing is a matter of semantics and personal view but in my experience the real work is always done by God.

 

The question, "Does God answer Prayer" ? from the OP In my view, YES , Always, but hearing may require a conscious connection and the answer may not be the one expected.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good thought, Joseph. I do think sometimes "answers to prayer" can come through guidance if we are open to percievingit, and open and willing to be responsive, to act upon it in what way we can. That it may seem "indirect' in that it came through our own responsive action or another's, does not mean it did not come from God, the Spirit, the Greater Consciousness working through that.

 

I know I have become personally uncomfortable offering up a prayer, or agreeing to pray for someone, when there is something I could do in the matter, but am not willing to do. It makes me feel kind of like I'm just tossing it to God, "here, God, you take care of it, I'm too busy/too inconvenienced or whatever..." It makes me feel insincere and shallow. It makes me feel, what if I was made aware of this need BECAUSE I am the one that could help, could be "the answer", and I shirked that call?

 

Certainly I've had experiences, that go in both directions, my learning of another's need I was able to meet, as well as having requests for prayers for me strike the right ears and heart, those that were able to answer mine.

 

I have experienced and witnessed occasions in which one person spontaneously shows up with the answer to another's prayer of need, that they didn't even know about before hand.

 

Once many years ago, I was very young, had 2 babies to care for, my husband only able to find a low paying part time job, we were barely surviving...we were living in a cheap, run-down old house we rented unfurnished from something of a "slumlord" that owned a row of such old houses along the same block. Our old refridgerator had quit, it was hot summer, no air conditioning, and I had been struggling to keep milk, formula, opened baby food,and other perishables in an ice chest for nearly two weeks. Oh, Lord, was I praying for a refridgerator! Then the landlord came to our door, we'd said nothing about our need for a refridgerator to him, and he wasn't the nice friendly helpful sort of guy you'd ask for help anyway. And he told me tenants in another of the houses had moved out, and left an old, ugly, but working, refridgerator...and thought he'd ask if we could use it before he had his maintenance man haul it to the dump! Prayer answered!

 

I've experienced and seen that many times, sometimes my need met, sometimes I met the need of another. In consideration of a "greater consciousness", a "shared consciouusness", this could be at work without our even knowing it.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes it would, and i enjoyed reading your experiences above. I have some strange ones myself. Of course after telling some will always ask "yeah, well what about all the other people who prayed and got nothing?" That could be the subject of a whole other topic too. :)

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another aspect of this question of 'does God answer prayers.'

There's an old country song that goes along the line of "thank God for unanswered prayers."

 

Our perspective on our own needs and that of others is inherently flawed...we just don't have all the pertinent information to really know what is for the best. We often misunderstand what the true need in a situation really is, may be seeking an answer that is actually going to send more problems than it solves. We have no nice, handy crystal balls through which to look into future events. This can be so for ourselves, or when thinking to intercede in behalf of another, when we really don't know what that other would really want or choose for themselves in a situation.

 

I've seen a few situations in which others sought intervention in the course of events, through both intercessory prayer as well as overt actions, for someone out of their own self interests and feelings. Several instances have involved some famiily member(s) insisting on aggressive medical treatment and interventions that the patient themselves did not, would not, have wanted, had even expressed rejection of either verbally or through a written living will. When those interventions "succeeded" the person that had expressed willingness, readiness to die, and aversion to a prolonged quantity of life without a certain level of qualiity of life, were put through weeks, months, even years of suffering they wouldn't have chosen for themselves.

 

Sometimes, a person chooses for him or her self such agressive treatmennts and heroiic measures, only to regret having made that choice later as prolonged suffering bears heavily upon them.

 

I have thought I needed or wanted things, that whether I got them or not, I later realiized hadn't or wouldn't have been such a good thing in the long run. Some of those experiences have helped me to become more accepting of the way things work out differently than I'd have planned in my life, and to neither feel such strong desires for something as to hurt for them, and/or to more easily let go, not suffer extreme dissapointment when things don't go as I'd have liked, to accept it may well have been for the best.

 

One experience of that which stands out in my memories is of events as they played out when I thought my husband and I had found our most perfect dream home for ourselves and 4 children, as we sought to buy our first house. Absolutely every piece of what we felt we needed and wanted was met in perfection in the first home we attempted to buy. We, especially me, had fallen into absolute love with that property. We signed a contract and put up earnest money, entirely confident of approval of financing. We were stunned when told our application had been denied, and a second potential buyer's contengency application was already being processed. It turned out that an error somewhere in the process in which a mistake had been made by someone typing in my husband's SS number had brought up 'credit problems' that weren't even our own! But it was too late, the back-up buyer's application was already being processed and approved. I CRIED, even grieved, heartbroken, over losing that house! But within 6 mos, that property that had never been flooded before, suffered extensive damage when 4 ft of water overflowed it from a nearby creek during a massive hurricane, and within 5 years, the peaceful wooded natural setting around it had been transformed into industrial complexes and construction business compounds! A succession of similar 'near-misses' in other things i thought I wanted or needed in my life has brought me to an appreciation of how often we can thank God for unanwered prayers.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I, for myself, cannot believe in an interventionist God - strictly speaking. The example I like to give is two people praying for two different families during a catastrophe, one family is wiped out, the other is saved. Would God play favorites like that? I wouldn't think so. To throw out my favorite question, what would that say about God? Having said that, however, I don't think we can really say for sure if God does or doesn't do this or that. It is a mystery, as is most of what we can say about God imo.

 

That said, I do believe in the power of both intercessory and petitionary prayer. Not that it can force God into doing something, but because, well, heck, i just do. :blink:

 

I agree with that there is power in the act of prayer as we bring ourselves into the awareness of the divine presence in every person, and every situation. I think there is power in loving someone so much that we care enough to spend time praying for them. I think there is special power when a community loves enough to pray together for someone. Finally, I think there is tremendous power in the faith it takes to prayer for someone or something. After all,the gospel writers have Jesus saying - more than once - "your faith has cured you".

 

Finally, and this may be off-topic, I think there is some sort of correlation between our "prayer" and quantum physics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I read Bruce’s column I didn’t see the word integral, so I’m not sure what it means in this context--integrating the various ways prayer has been understood through the evolution of religion?

 

About the focus on intercessory prayer --to me, it’s not a good idea to ask God for particular things or events – seems like testing God, and putting our faith at risk. There are times, like if we’re worried sick about a loved one’s safety, that we can’t help being specific. But mostly I pray for qualities like guidance, comfort, well-being, courage, etc for myself and/or others. If God answers prayer, it seems God responds rather than intervenes—perhaps in subtle unpredictable ways that shape us.

 

Henri Nouwen says the main purpose of prayer is intimate communion; the emphasis is on nurturing a relationship, not a result. Sharing whatever emotional state we’re in with complete honesty; standing in God’s presence with open hands, empty, dependent, listening with mind and heart.

 

I also like how progressive theology professor Marjorie Suchocki puts it -- Prayer is God inviting us to be willing partners in the great dance of creating a world that reflects more of God’s character. Prayer opens the world to its own transformation.

Edited by rivanna
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I, for myself, cannot believe in an interventionist God - strictly speaking. The example I like to give is two people praying for two different families during a catastrophe, one family is wiped out, the other is saved. Would God play favorites like that? I wouldn't think so. To throw out my favorite question, what would that say about God? Having said that, however, I don't think we can really say for sure if God does or doesn't do this or that. It is a mystery, as is most of what we can say about God imo.

(snip)

 

It seems to me that happens often. Your question "Would God play favorites like that?" , in my view seems like an unfair question as it assumes that because both were prayed for but one was wiped out and one was saved that fairness is negated by God without actually being aware of all knowledge and understanding of the whole. In my view, God answering or intervening through any method does not mean that you got your request, only that there is an answer.

 

Here is what seems to me from experience. I evangelized for a number of years and ministered to people i had never met before sometimes in other states. Many were looking for healing. I wanted all of them to be healed but it seems there was only an unction within me to pray for certain people. People who were in some way ready were perceived as such and if i was a willing vessel to 'step out on a limb' (which might feel like falling off a log backwards), so to speak, i could invoke the divinity inside me and them as one to intervene and bring about a change. Without that unction if i prayed without first perceiving or feeling an unction to intervene and connected, i could 'see' that bringing about the change would not be of benefit and would not serve the whole. Why? Frankly, i can't say because it was just known without words. I felt as if i were that person i was praying for and at that moment knew them as myself and simply understood why without words. My faith was never put at risk because i was just a willing vessel, not the one doing the work.

 

So is God unfair? Is our concept of fairness of God narrow and limited when viewed in the scheme of the whole? Perhaps these are tough questions to answer to the satisfying of the mind. It seems to me religions do attempt to do so but only within the confines of conceptual theories, limitations of language, cultures and changing of times and science.

 

So again is God unfair? I think not. Does God intervene by prayer? In my life it seems most definitely so. Why do i believe this ? Personal experience and by choice if there is really such a thing, If so, i choose to surrender it in trust to that which i perceive sustains me and at any time can extinguish this personality and continuing story know as Joseph and his life story without violating that trust. Why? Because "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ" (not a man but the 'smearing together' with God)

 

Just my thoughts to share,

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So is God unfair? Is our concept of fairness of God narrow and limited when viewed in the scheme of the whole?

Joseph

Joseph, This, I think, is an important question maybe deserving a thread of its own.

 

I think we tend to measure divine fairness against our own personal sense of justice. First, this is neither perfectly consistent from person to person nor from society to society. And maybe more importantly, we tend to view it from an anthropocentric point of view that focuses on us as humans. Evolution, as an example, if viewed, from an individual point of view is very unjust. Those who have the wrong genes, for no reason of their own, just don't make it. But, from a system point of view, it works quite well.

 

So, a cosmic system of justice might be quite different from that of our limited, self focused, perspective.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest billmc

That's good input, George and Joseph.

 

It reminded me: Jesus said that God saw each sparrow that falls. He didn't say that God would prevent all sparrows from falling. ;)

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service