Since I started my blog in February this is the longest I have gone without posting something. Quite honestly in the last two weeks I have written, discarded, rewritten and tossed several potential posts. These writings have helped me process recent happenings in our world, our nation and in my own life, but ultimately were not things I wanted to post on such a public forum. So please forgive the two-week hiatus. I am back in full swing now, though. I am excited to report that today was the first official day of my last year of seminary! Although I had a great summer, it is good to be back into a routine. I am looking forward to my classes this semester which are as follows: Mission of the Church in the Contemporary World, Christian Ethics, Liturgical Prayer, and the Church’s Educational Ministry. I am also auditing a class on praise and worship music. As one who enjoys writing liturgy, I am especially interested in my liturgical prayer class and look forward to compiling a portfolio of written prayers and liturgy.
My first assignment for the Liturgical Prayer class was to write a brief response to some of the readings, which caused me to reflect and ask some fundamental questions about the practice of prayer. I share that initial writing with you here for your own reflection.
Most of the books on prayer that I have read center on the “mechanics” of prayer, often giving a “formula” or appropriate format to use. Examples of this include the 5-pointed structure of a collect, the children’s “finger prayer,” or acronyms like ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. While these books and formulas are helpful in actually getting people to pray, assumptions are generally made about the one to whom these prayers are directed and the person praying.
As a pastor, I have often been asked the question, “What is prayer?” and with confidence (or dare I even say, cockiness), my response is generally, “Prayer is communication with God. You can talk to God as you would a friend.” Chapter 1 of Marjorie Suchocki’s book In God’s Presence has challenged the clichés, probed the platitudes, and analyzed the assumptions often made about prayer. She asks important questions like: How do we know these things? Just who is it that we are praying to? In the vastness of the universe, can we mere mortals even think we know who this God is, or that this God is listening, or affected by what we say? How do we know that we are not just talking to ourselves?
As I think about writing prayers, I think an important question to begin with is this: what is my theology of prayer? To answer that, I need to dig deeper and ask even more questions. To whom am I praying? For whom or for what am I praying? What is my desired outcome of this prayer? What do I hope it accomplishes? While I realize that one could easily get caught up in these technicalities that initially could keep one from actually praying, they are important questions that can ultimately lead to deeper or more thoughtful prayer.
So readers, what are your thoughts on prayer? I would be very interested in dialoguing with you on this topic.
Until next time, peace …
I understand the inability to blog. I have had the same problem. Lots of ideas, but not sure if they are appropriate or even necessary for others to read. Probably more my own venting of frustrations.
I think I have had some very similar thoughts about prayer. It is more than that pat answer of talking to God. I wonder if a case can be made that prayer is different things at different times. Individual prayer can be a time to talk with God. It can also be a time to center ourselves, focusing on what we believe God wants from us.
Liturgical prayer is a time for the people of God to work together in prayer. The focus then should be outside of ourselves and on those things that we as a community care about. It can also be a means of invoking the Holy Spirit into our midsts.
Pastoral prayers are different all together. As the priest of a congregation, the pastor leads this prayer time with a focus of guiding the thoughts of the parishioners even more outside of ourselves. The best pastoral prayers I have ever heard are from Pastor Aaron Hobbs who pays attention to what is happening around the world and pulls them into his prayers in an artful manner.
Well, those are my many thoughts. 🙂
Everything you said is right, of course. When I pray, I feel an intimacy – the feeling of being completely known. So as I bring my prayers before Him, I can relax, because I know that He already knows everything I have on my little mortal mind, and He’s got it all under control. I’m not always very comfortable with the idea of someone knowing me so well, but most of the time, I find it very reassuring. Prayer, then, to me, is going to Him with the simple faith of a child, and trusting Him to take it from there.
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A definite great read..Tony Brown