A Kind of Make Believe

“Praying is spiritual work; and human nature does not like taxing, spiritual work. Human nature wants to sail to heaven under a favoring breeze, a full, smooth sea.

Prayer is humbling work. It abases intellect and pride, crucifies vain glory and signs our spiritual bankruptcy, and all these are hard for flesh and blood to bear. It is easier not to pray than to bear them. So we come to one of the crying evils of these times, maybe of all times: little or no praying. Of these two evils, perhaps little praying is words than no praying. Little praying is a kind of make-believe, a salve for the conscience, a farce and a delusion.” – E.M. Bounds

Surprised at the Heart of Prayer

Every human being knows prayer from experience. Have we not all experienced moments in which our thirsting heart found itself with surprise drinking at a fountain of meaning?Much of our life may be a wandering in desert lands, but we do find springs of water. If what is called “God” means in the language of experience the ultimate Source of Meaning, then those moments that quench the thirst of the heart are moments of prayer. They are moments when we communicate with God, and that is, after all, the essence of prayer.

But do we recognize these meaningful moments as prayer? Here, the answer is often “no.” And under this aspect we cannot presume that everyone knows what prayer is. It happens that people who are in the habit of saying prayers at certain set times have their moments of genuine prayer precisely at times when they are not saying prayers. In fact, they may not even recognize their most prayerful moments as prayer. Others who never say formal prayers are nourished by moments of deep prayerfulness. Yet, they would be surprised to learn that they are praying at all.

Brother David Steindle-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer

Dialogue, Not Demand

“Talking to God personally differs entirely from trying to put the Almighty under our thumbs with prayer born of magic and ritual. Yet many people, ancient and modern, have treated prayer moreĀ as incantation than dialogue. … Practices of prayer akin of magic persist widely in the Christian movement. For example, some pray as if they will be heard the better for their flowery language or impassioned style. Others insist that certain postures, patterns, and phrases must be used if prayer is to be effective. Still others presume on grace, thinking that by “laying claim” to “promises” they find in Scripture, they put God under obligation to do as they ask.

In such sub-Christian and unbiblical expressions of prayer, what once may have been vital has degenerated into idle form. Biblical prayer is personal, not magical; dialogue, not demand.” – Howard Macy, Rhythms of the Inner Life

The Easiest and the Hardest

“Prayer is the easiest and the hardest of all things; the simplest and the sublimest; the weakest and the most powerful; its results lie outside the range of human possibilities–they are limited only by the omnipotence of God. Few Christians have anything but a vague idea of the power of prayer; fewer still have any experience of that power. The Church seems almost wholly unaware of the power God puts into her hand; this spiritual carte blanche on the infinite resources of God’s wisdom and power is rarely, if ever, used — never used to the full measure of honoring God.

It is astounding how poor the use, how little the benefits. Praying is our most formidable weapon, but the one in which we are the least skilled, the most averse to its use. We do everything else for the [lost] save the thing God wants us to do; the only thing which does any good [and which] makes all else we do efficient.” – E. M. Bounds