Modernity and the Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer

See the introduction here.

Prayer challenges self-sufficiency. In prayer we call for help from outside ourselves. It also challenges materialism. Indeed, prayer is completely meaningless apart from the existence of a real spiritual world.

Another pastor said this to me the other day: “Everything seems more urgent than prayer.”

How true.

It is one of the tenets of modernity that the true power in the universe lies in man, individually or collectively. If we want some that to change we have to make it happen.

That kind of thinking easily finds its way into the Christian mind. Consciously or unconsciously we think things like, “I can make myself good.” “I can make the church grow.” “I can win enough arguments to win over skeptics.” “My political party can make our nation moral again.” “My church can bring about the spiritual renewal of the city.” “Our movement can end world hunger.” I’m not speaking just of rugged individualism (though this, too, is problematic) but of the belief that the true power of the universe to bring about positive change resides in human will and intelligence.

The truth is that God is the one in control of all things. He does, indeed, give us free will. By his common grace all people do act in meaningful and responsible ways – though more often than not our free actions bring disorder instead of order. And, by His special grace, God empowers His people for good works. But, any power we do have is strictly derivative. It all comes from God.

It takes energy to consistently remember this. It takes effort. It takes… discipline.

The discipline of prayer draws our minds to this spiritual reality.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name

We have a Father in heaven who loves us. He is the uncreated Creator. All power comes from Him.

“your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

We seek His will, not the will of man. He will being about that will, not us.

Give us today our daily bread.”

He supplies all of our needs. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

When we do try to act independently, autonomously, apart from and in rebellion to the will of God, it’s only through Him that our sins can be forgiven.

“And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from the evil one.”

There are other powers in this world (human and spiritual evil). God is able to deliver us from all sources of evil.