Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Fasting from Prayer?, Part One

One of my favorite writers and soon-to-be syndicated columnist, Rob Asghar, says on his web site, "I am fasting from prayer, at least from the 'gimme, gimme' kind, or the 'clean up this mess' kind. For now, I am content to see God moving in the world without attempting to force the hand of Providence."

This might be seen as a provocative statement coming from someone like Asghar, who is a Christian and who evidences a real commitment to authentically living his faith in Christ. But he has his reasons and I think I understand them. To the extent that I do understand them, they seem to have a lot more to do with belief, than with doubt.

One reason for Asghar's prayer fast is hinted at in his mention of "gimme, gimme" prayers. It's true, I think, that our most ardent prayers are often "Hail Mary" desperation plays. We or the people we pray for move through our lives with little or no thought of God or of God's will and then, BAM!, trouble hits and we all become the most pious, believing people on the face of the planet.

The wonderfully crazy thing about God is that He's willing to hear prayers from people who have spent lifetimes being heedless of Him, who in the horrors of personal crisis suddenly see their need of God and cry out to Him. It's simply a matter of connecting with the God Who reaches out to us through Jesus Christ.

Jesus promises, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." [John 15:7]

But there's the rub, and it may explain one reason that Rob has decided to fast from praying for awhile. Authentic prayer, prayer that moves beyond a "gimme, gimme" attitude, even if we're asking for something for ourselves, starts with abiding in--some translations might put it, remaining in--Jesus. Jesus explains the meaning of abiding in Him by saying, "I am the true vine...you are the branches." [John 15:1-5]

Prayer devoid of relationship with the God--or dependency on the God--we know through Jesus Christ isn't prayer at all. It's God as cosmic sugar daddy, God as heavenly ATM, God as distant rich uncle.

Authentic prayer involves having a relationship with God. It isn't that God is hesitant to say, "Yes" to our prayers, it's that when we cultivate a relationship with Him, it will change what we ask God to "gimme, gimme." "Take delight in the Lord," Psalm 37:4 says, "and He will give you the desires of your heart."

A relationship with God will transform our prayers, making them more selfless, more attuned to what our Lover God wants for us and the world and less enslaved to our whims of the moment.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with a praying person asking for something from God. When we have a relationship with God, we're willing to let God tell us, "No," or "Later," or "Wait," as well as "Yes." That's what we mean when we tell God, "Your will be done."

But I think that Rob Asghar is onto something. Maybe more folks beside him should fast from "gimme, gimme" praying for a time and simply focus on getting to know God better. A good place to start that process would be to read two different books in the New Testament: John and Romans.

I'll try to post more thoughts on Rob's prayer fast tomorrow.

2 comments:

Daddypundit said...

Thanks for your post and linking to Rob's post. I think you're both on to something. I know my own prayer life has been too much of the gimme attitude and not enough abiding in Christ. Thanks for the encouragement!

Derek Simmons said...

Mark:

As you develop your series-- triggered by Rob's prayer-fast--will you please give some focus to and your thoughts on "...and My words abide in you..."

Maybe I hang around with the "wrong crowd", but I stop being amazed at my own Biblical illiteracy whenever a discussion turns deep and His Words should be determinative on the topic at hand.

In Him,
Derek