Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Fasting from Prayer?, Part Three

The topic of this series of blogs was suggested by a piece that Rob Asghar recently wrote. In it, Rob said that he was fasting from prayer, or at least the "gimme, gimme" type of prayer, including such prayers offered for others.

Part of Rob's reason for not offering such prayers is that they seem selfish and shallow, a laudable concern. I had a lot that I was going to write in addressing this. But Richard Foster, in his wonderful book, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, has done so much better than I would have done. Consider this:
I used to think that I needed to get all my motives straightened out before I could pray, really pray. I would be in some prayer group, for example, and I would examine what I had just prayed and think to myself, "How utterly foolish and self-centered; I can't pray this way!" And so I would determine never to pray again until my motives were pure. You understand, I did not want to be a hypocrite. I knew that God is holy and righteous. I knew that prayer is no magic incantation. I knew that I must not use God for my own ends. But the practical effect of all this internal soul-searching was to completely paralyze my ability to pray.

The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives--altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure. But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture. We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything. That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well. And we pray by it.

Jesus reminds us that prayer is a little like children coming to their parents. Our children come to us with the craziest requests at times! Often we are grieved by the meanness and selfishness in their requests, but we would be all the more grieved if they never came to us even with their meanness and selfishness. We are simply glad that they do come--mixed motives and all.

This is precisely how it is with prayer. We will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough in order to pray rightly. We simply must set all these things aside and begin praying. In fact, it is in the very act of prayer itself--the intimate, ongoing interaction with God--that these matters are cared for in due time.

[For further exploration of this topic, check out
Fasting from Prayer?, Part One
Fasting from Prayer?, Part Two
An Excursus from the topic, based on a question raised about Part One]

1 comment:

Alex said...

It seems to me that if we waited for everything to be "right" we'd never get anything done. I suspect that God wants us to multi-task. It sort of reminds me of feeding the world's poor (who God knows are deserving) before we spend money to go into Space. Maybe that wasn't a good analogy because a lot of people are spaced out already!!