I started this blog post over two weeks ago knowing exactly what to write. I soon found however, that my writings looked like the rantings of a prayer skeptic vs an analyzed argument. I’m not against prayer, but I have seen some people take it to a whole level that I can’t fully appreciate or understand. A level which I myself have tried, and found no benefit in. The basis for this post, that God is still God, and still acts in our life whether we pray or not, still rings true. I have however, changed my tune a bit regarding prayer as a routine, which prior to this I wasn’t advocating for myself. A week late, a little scattered, and an opinion change later, here is my post.
I admit that my opinions on prayer have been formed from my unique experiences and encounters. I encourage you to think about what I’m saying and how it would apply to your life. If you don’t agree with me, that is completely fine. I wouldn’t expect (nor would I want) someone to agree after a minute’s read, without looking into the topic for themselves. Take what is applicable for your life from what I’m saying, and leave the rest. After all, I don’t know everything, and my opinion is open to change.
To start, answer me a question. Who in the Christian community, or elsewhere for that matter, hasn’t heard the catch phrase ‘power of prayer’? We don’t think too deeply into what that phrase really means, because we’ve heard it so much it’s become another part of Christian culture. Here’s my issue, just because something is a familiar, traditional doctrine or belief in Christianity doesn’t mean it’s true, healthy, or edifying or any of that good stuff. Now, I’m not saying that believing in the power of prayer isn’t any of that, but it doesn’t hurt to evaluate old beliefs and figure out what they really mean to us, not just accept them as true because it’s what we’ve been believing for so long.
Let’s look at the phrase itself. ‘Power of prayer’ … Take it out of context and analyze it as a phrase. It would appear that you’re saying prayer in it of itself has power. What is prayer? The way I grew up knowing prayer, it’s the act of communicating with God. Usually done through bowing your head, closing your eyes and clasping your hands together in one way or another (something to show respect) and then you just talk to God, some speak beautifully, some just chat like they’re talking to one of their pals, and some vent like they’re talking to a therapist. Yeah, I know, you know, we all know. Boring! Why are you telling us all this stuff? We know what prayer is.
Alright but what is prayer actually for? Why do people pray?
- For peace
- For Guidance – to learn God’s will
- To refocus on what’s important
- To get closer to God
- To ask a favor/change God’s mind – Often the way ‘Power of Prayer’ is interpreted
- Because they believe it’s the right thing to do – aka it’s what the cool Christians do
Do I pray? Yes, when I’m in a tough spot, or a particularly good spot or I’m just confused. I pray when I know it counts. Sure, I bless my food sometimes and such… but is that really praying? Or is it just a tradition of reciting a phrase? “Dear God, bless this food…” etc…. What is the point of that, other than for the appearance of godliness? The times I have really felt that my prayer was doing something was when I most needed reassurance or guidance, and I got out of it what I needed. I got my thoughts all cleared, and felt a sense of calm. Dare I say it? Almost like what meditation is for … Of course some might say, and even I would consider, oh, Charity, you are simply doing prayer wrong…! Am I really though? Think about it. Does prayer help God? Does God need our prayers to get stuff done? Or is prayer just for us?
Do I believe in the power of prayer? Well, not exactly. I believe in the power of God, and although I do believe that God hears us when we pray, he ultimately knows better than us, and I feel like believing in the power of prayer is believing that saying something to God is gonna make something happen. So, can we change God’s mind? I don’t think so, and I don’t think we should be able to, since he knows a lot more about this world and about us than we know, and I sure don’t want to run this whole thing. Having the ability to change God’s mind by praying a certain way or for a particularly long length of time is like having power over God. I for one, don’t want power over God. Thanks, but no thanks.
Prayer has become an icon of power, of getting stuff done – “Oh, all we can do is pray…” Almost like an idol. (what?! An idol?! Come on Charity, what does that have to do with anything?!) An idol is something that takes precedence over God. So when we believe in the power of prayer too much we get caught up in the idea that all you have to do is pray to get stuff done, and this concept when disconnected with God can be super unhealthy. Praying, praying, praying….Getting all caught up in talking to this unseen force without taking into account that maybe what you’re saying is totally outside of His will instead of accepting that he’s going to do what’s best for you and for others in the long run whether you see it or not. Maybe that means struggles and hardship… lessons to learn… Maybe you need to do something other than pray. (I get into this topic in my blog post about waiting on God).
What about praying because it’s the right thing to do or to get closer to God? This is where I was going to write that fitting in a slot for God is a mundane, ridiculous thing and has no intrinsic value. Ha. I also was going to use exercise as an analogy, saying you don’t need to get up at 5 or 6 every morning to stay fit. However, I realized my argument was full of holes, and using that analogy actually went against me. Sure, not everyone who’s fit and healthy wakes up at 5 to exercise, but being active at some time in the day is super healthy. I mean even I try to workout in the morning or do something active in the day if I miss that mark. Scheduling in prayers didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be just what someone else needs to stay ‘spiritually fit’. Just so long as you aren’t totally tuned out to prayer in all its forms, or putting an over emphasis on prayer, I think you’re alright. It may be a little mundane (or just seem like reciting a speech), but praying isn’t a bad thing to work into your routine if only to refocus yourself.
As for it being the right thing, or more Christian way of life… Can someone be a ‘good Christian’ without a super active prayer life? I think they totally can. Will prayer help them move closer to God? Maybe, that part is full of variables and what it means to pray can be totally different for different people.
My conclusion is this; God doesn’t need prayer to give him power, but yes, sometimes we need the assurance, and focus that comes with prayer. God can get stuff done whether you pray or not. All that being said, this was a surprisingly hard topic for me to hash out my thoughts and therefore worth extra consideration by everyone. I am 100% for anything that is better for your life and those around you. If you believe prayer is one of those things, pray away. Just don’t forget who you pray to, someone smarter than all of us, with infinite wisdom, who can take what we say or leave it. He’s got plans bigger than all of us and praying shouldn’t change His mind.
Without God, prayer is nothing.