The Prayer Principle


Virtually every religion practices prayer. Communicating with deity seems to be a nearly universal desire among humanity.

Prayer can be worship, confession, thanksgiving, requests for ourselves or others, or most anything one would want to say to a deity.  

Native Americans dance as a form of prayer. Hindus chant mantras. Jewish prayer may involve swaying back and forth. Muslims prostrate themselves on the floor or kneel. Quakers emphasize silent reflection.

There may be accompanying actions with prayer, like, anointing with oil, ringing a bell, lighting a candle, facing toward Mecca, making the sign of the cross, or fasting.

Payers are woven throughout the pages of the Bible.  Abraham prayed for a son (Genesis 15:2). He also bargained with God to withhold his judgment on Sodom if he could find but a few righteous people who lived there (Genesis 18:23-24). Kings and generals prayed for victory in battle. The early Christian disciples prayed for boldness in the face of persecution (Acts 4:29-30). A thief on the cross next to Jesus prayed for mercy (Luke 23:42). David prayed a beautiful prayer of repentance (Psalm 51:10-13). Elijah prayed for both draught and rain, but not at the same time (James 5:17-18). Ezra confessed the sins of Israel (Ezra 9:6). Gideon prayed for a sign from God (Judges 6:36). Habakkuk prayed for justice (Habakkuk 1:2-4). Hannah also prayed for a son (I Samuel 10:11). Jabez prayed for prosperity (I Chronicles 4:10). A leper prayed for healing (Matthew 8:2). Moses prayed for water (Exodus 8:8-9). Paul prayed eloquently for the Ephesian Christians (Ephesians 3:14-21). He also prayed for deliverance form an undisclosed “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:8). Solomon prayed for wisdom (I Kings 3:6-9). A tax collector prayed for mercy (Luke 1:13).

The Psalms contain as astounding breadth of prayers. You can everything from requests to reign down judgment on enemies to lavish praise and agonizing expressions of personal anguish. The Bible is full of examples of prayer, exhortations to pray, and assurances of God hearing our prayers.

Yet, prayer is a mystery. It seems like our prayers only occasionally answered affirmatively. It leaves us scratching our heads in confusion, wondering if we prayed the right way, had enough faith, and asked for the right thing.

We pray for all manner of things from a good parking place to people being delivered from a fatal disease. Maybe we just don’t understand God and the grand scheme of things, which gives him the latitude to answer our prayers yes, no, slow (not yet), and grow (there is a personal learning process involved).

Actually, it seems strange that an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent would even want us to pray. Maybe, he just likes hearing from us, or maybe, something else is in play.

To be continued next week.

Photo credit: Leila DarwishCreative Commons.

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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