Tuesday, 27 June 2017
How can I keep From Praying
I recently received the gift of a book on prayer. It is entitled Men Pray and is a collection of prayers and reflections by many of the ‘big names’ is theology and spirituality. I don’t mean this to be disparaging in any way. The writers include such diverse people as modern writers C.S. Lewis, Nelson Mandala, Wendell Berry as well as ones in the classic canon such as Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, and Tagore. There are even some surprizing entries by people not normally considered in the field such as General Douglas MacArthur. It also introduced me to people I am not familiar with such as Ted Loder and Jay Marshall. It also has entries by that most prolific of writers, author unknown. It is a treasure that I can delve into for a long time to come and be the source of much contemplation as each entry can be something to meditate on at length.
However, this morning I want to reflect on the introduction to the book which is written by Brian D. McLaren. This is something of a synchronistic event as the McLaren was one of the presenters at the Haden Dream and Spirituality Conference I attended at the end of May. I had not been familiar with this person or his writing previously so it is, I believe, a “significant coincident” that I received this book shortly after. I was quite impressed by McLaren from his presentations at the Conference and I bought his most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, which I am currently reading. I have found the writing of McLaren to be an excellent expression of many of the issues I have been exploring for many years in my personal theology (of course I therefore think his theology is right on which needs to be balanced by some counter arguments).
One part of the introduction by McLaren particularly spoke to me. He was speaking of his grandfather’s approach to prayer:
My grandfather didn’t seem to be bothered by all those theological questions of how prayer functions, of what prayer accomplishes, of how the prayers of one person interacts with the free will of another or with “the sovereign will of God “ or “the law of nature”. He didn’t seem to type to question why prayer should be necessary, why an all benevolent God would need to be invited or coaxed into doing the right thing. Somehow, he flew above or below the altitude at which those questions buss and bother.
This sums up eloquently in a few words the journey I have been on for many years in regard to prayer and why I should pray. I have had many debates with myself along those lines about prayer and if and how I should pray.
I contrast this approach to that of Gretta Vosper, a United Church of Canada minister who is a self-declared atheist. I wrote about Vosper a while ago and my criticism of her stance. She expounded in her writings, which are extensive, about her epiphany which brought her to her current understanding (misunderstanding in my view) about God. The episode involved the death of the much beloved elementary school teacher of her daughter. Her daughter had prayed fervently that the teacher would be healed of the condition that eventually killed her. Vosper could not answer her daughter’s questions about how a loving God could allow such a beloved person to die. In my understanding, this led her to her current belief that there is no God. Since then Vosper has been on a crusade to convert the United Church to her form of Christianity, or rather, into an organization which is more in line with a secular service club.
My journey has brought me to a point in life in which prayer plays an important part. It has brought me to the place where I know and believe that prayer is necessary for my salvation and the salvation of the world. I pray because I know it is necessary for me and for the world regardless of those theological questions which can be voiced by me within or by others such as Vosper on the outside.
Blessings on your journey.