November 22, 2017

My Evangelical Hangover: Praying for Stuff

Don’t worry about anything;
instead, pray about everything.

• Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

• • •

My Evangelical Hangover
Praying for Stuff

Hi. I’m Mike and for a long time I lived and served in the world of evangelicalism. Now I practice my faith in the Lutheran tradition (the original “evangelicals”). But I’m talking about American Evangelicalism. I followed the path of others who “went into ministry” in the generation when “evangelicalism” became a thing here in the U.S.

I was “saved” in the Jesus movement, “discipled” in youth group, “equipped” in a non-denominational Bible college, “called” to be a pastor, “worshiped” to “Contemporary Christian Music (CCM),” further “equipped” in an evangelical seminary, and I served in non-denominational churches that emphasized a “church growth/church planting/discipling” model.

I’ve written about this many times here, and about why I eventually left the culture of evangelicalism. But you know the old saying about not being able to take the country out of the boy. I appreciate much of my evangelical heritage, but I also have plenty of “hangovers” from those days — angst and guilt and doubt and questions about whether I’m “following the Lord” in one area of my life or another.

Take prayer.

The churches I attended and pastored were the kinds that had regular “prayer meetings” on the schedule. Usually Wednesday nights. A few persistent souls gathered to have a short devotional study (10% of the meeting), share “prayer requests” (80%), and pray intercessory prayers on behalf of those with needs (10%). When these meetings became less and less attended, there were always those who saw this as a sign of impending doom. People just weren’t committed to prayer anymore. Dagnabit.

We also had, or were encouraged to have, regular personal “devotions.” A meeting with God each day to hear him speak through the Bible and to speak to him in prayer. We were encouraged to keep our own “prayer lists” of intercessory needs to pray through regularly, from our own “walk with God” to our families to missionaries in the farthest flung places around the globe.

Praying was an integral part of my evangelical life, well, at least in the sense that we talked about it all the time and deemed it of utmost importance. How much actual praying we did is a mystery to me to this day.

One thing we often talked about with regard to our lives was making decisions. Life, of course, is filled with choices, and in the evangelical community a great premium was placed on getting those decisions right in a way that God would be pleased. And the pertinent question we always asked one another was: Have you prayed about it? We believed that God would provide providential guidance or specific biblical direction about almost any decision you can think of. One key sign of his leading was that the pray-er or group of pray-ers would feel “peace” about the decision.

I always struggled with this. I found prayer, though always practiced in a “spontaneous” and never a “liturgical” manner, to be formulaic, often shallow, unimaginative, and relentlessly repetitive. And there was a whole host of matters that I never felt comfortable praying about.

Which brings me to my hangover today. For those of you who don’t know, we are in the process of trying to sell our house and relocate nearby. I won’t bore you with the details, but let me just say it’s a season of life decision. If we’re going to make a move, this would be a good time in our life to do it. At least the way we see it.

But throughout this process I’ve felt guilty. I haven’t prayed about this. In fact, I can’t make myself pray about this or encourage my wife to sit down with me and devote time to praying together about it. I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask others to pray about this.

In fact, if you pressed me I would probably tell you I don’t think God really cares a fig about this situation. I can’t imagine that God is really concerned about whether we live here or there.

Also, frankly, it’s about as “First World” a problem as I can envision. I can’t define moving as a “need.” Either place would seem like a palace for 80%+ of the world’s population. Our needs would be far more than met in either location.

I don’t know what I would ask God if I did commit the matter to prayer. God, please help us sell our house (for a good price)? God, please help us get this new house (for a good price)? That seems a bit self-indulgent, doesn’t it? A bit like a spoiled child asking for another toy or a bit more candy. God, search my heart and help me know if I’m doing this for the right motives? What motives would those be? We’re just doing what millions of others do — trying to find a place we like that might be well suited for us and our family in the years to come.

Isn’t something like this just a matter of responsibility, stewardship, and common sense wisdom? Is it something that must be prayed about? What would I be trying to do by praying, get God to sign off on it? Get God to “bless” us with what we want? Seek God’s “favor” on our decisions? Do I think God might actually tell me, “Yes, sell this house,” or “No, don’t buy this house?” Seems like a waste of breath and a waste of God’s time.

But I have this evangelical hangover. There’s a voice pounding in my head over and over:

“Have you prayed about it?”

“Why not?”

Comments

  1. Won’t you look down upon me Jesus, you’ve got to help me make a stand,
    You’ve just got to see me through another day….

    Third World problems exist even in the First World. I pray for whatever I feel compelled to pray for; but I don’t often feel compelled to pray. Life is too short for theological second-guessing, in either direction, when it comes to praying or not praying.

    • –> “I pray for whatever I feel compelled to pray for…Life is too short for theological second-guessing, in either direction, when it comes to praying or not praying.”

      Yep. Pretty much where I’m at, too.

  2. John Barry says:

    Chaplin Mike, Was not your underpinning of prayer be that God’s will be done? I would pray that I be at peace with what ever decision I made about the move for example. In my experience group prayer Is for fellow believers pray together for comfort and to be in a spirit of oneness with their fellow believers as they seek God’s will and blessing. Most prayers I have heard though the years are for other peoples health, need and salvation. Pretty simple to simple me, if you believe your house move is not important enough or you feel at peace with your decision than what is the purpose of the prayer you would make. I would say prayer is akin to asking your Father for his blessing, his guidance and letting him know your heartfelt feelings, both good and bad and being thankful for all things as all things are from God. I guess we could all just pray what we call the Lords Prayer and be done with it. When I hear public prayers at church being offered they are mostly prayers for others, for healing, for acceptance of their condition and at the root an acknowledge that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Of course in prosperity churches many prayers are given for a new car or the financial wind fall that is due them because? To sum up I go back to the old saying “Work like everything is up to you and pray like everything is up to God”.

    • I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, and have spent most of my adult decades in mainline Protestant churches. In all those churches, petitionary and intercessory prayer, along with adoration and glorification of God, were commended and practiced, both for individuals and in the prayer of the assembled congregation.

      But, generally speaking, no atmosphere of obsession with the importance of ones own personal efforts in prayer developed, as seems to be routine in evangelical culture. Prayer was and is understood as a way of getting out of oneself, and of gradually learning that one is not the center of existence, and of coming to trust in God. For many evangelicals, their prayer culture seems to put them rather than God at the center; if you are not praying, or not praying correctly, or not praying enough,creation seems to be thought of as at risk. An unbalanced and psychologically unhealthy and theologically unsound relationship to prayer is fostered.

      May I suggest the following change to your saying? When you work, trust God; when you pray, trust God; when you rest from work and prayer, trust God. And always remember, in work and prayer, and even in rest, not to take yourself too seriously.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > as seems to be routine in evangelical culture.

        This, if you don’t get the post, then you’ve been fortunate enough to not be around it.

        > was and is understood as a way of getting out of oneself

        They don’t believe *life* will do that, so something has to. So prayer and scolding/shaming sermons…
        Meanwhile real-life teaches most people they are not the center of the universe quite effectively.

        > not to take yourself too seriously

        +1,000

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        But, generally speaking, no atmosphere of obsession with the importance of ones own personal efforts in prayer developed, as seems to be routine in evangelical culture.

        Another side effect of a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

        Everything becomes Just God And ME, nobody/nothing else exists.
        Just like a Smartphone Zombie shuffling along tapping/swiping/stroking his Precious…….

    • –> “Was not your underpinning of prayer be that God’s will be done?”

      Does one need to actually “pray” for that? “God’s will” will be done regardless, right?

      And yes, I know Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done, but let’s look at the difference:

      “Take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours.”
      vs.
      “God, help this move go well; yet not my will, but yours.”

      What, then, would it mean if the move goes awful? That He didn’t want you to move? That He didn’t want it to go well? That He couldn’t overcome the powers of moving companies and real estate agents?

  3. Christiane says:

    well, I’ve no love for those who pray for what they want and do not need, although we are so spoiled do we still understand the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’?

    I heard about a beautiful prayer by a father who had lost his daughter, this:
    ‘wherever she is, I hope there will be puppies’, very poignant as the girl had a great love for animals before her death

    so what do we need to pray for? if I were in a state of terror or deep depression, which are pretty much the same thing, I think I would pray for God not to leave me . . . . yes, that alone would be ‘enough’, just for the pain to ebb and a chance to rest for a while at peace

    I used to laugh at this, but now, it is making much more sense to me:
    ““Here are the two best prayers I know:
    ‘Help me, help me, help me’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
    (Anne Lamott)

    and there is always this,
    always:
    ‘libera nos a malo’

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “””Isn’t something like this just a matter of responsibility, stewardship, and common sense wisdom?”””

    Amen, irony intended.

    With some of the most important decisions, and some of the most important issues to me, the only thing I can imagine happening in response to prayer is an angel appearing before me and saying: “So, then why are you sitting there like some chump?”. I’d nod, we’d fist bump, and I’d go back to work. Knowing that, why would they/he/it bother?

    And – I’m just me in a great big world filled with many people with much much greater challenges.

  5. Often when I pray for things or situations like you mentioned, I ask that the Lord to find a way to be glorified through it, to go where he leads, and I give thanks. Maybe it would help if you remember that prayer is a conversation with the one who loves you and you love the most. I think that may be what Paul was suggesting when he says to pray without ceasing. To have a dialogue going on inside of us with our Father. My prayer life changed after reading “The Practice of The Presence of God” by Brother Lawerence. Prayer has honestly changed my life. There is nothing that draws me closer to God. To his will, his strength, and his love. Blessings CM.

  6. When I was a young Christian (young in years – 20, and in the faith – a few months), I remember a pastor telling about a visiting evangelist who stayed at their house during a revival meeting. The pastor and his wife were going to the store and invited the evangelist to come along. He said he really needed some socks but hadn’t prayed about it enough to buy them yet. The pastor commended this as an example of how we ought to pray. As a young Christian I took that very seriously and prayed about everything.

    A few years later I had one of the most significant conversations in my life. I was talking with a medical doctor, who was not a Christian (he was probably late 30s at the time). But he said he liked to read the Bible, especially the gospels. He said his favorite story was Jesus’ parable of the talents. He was fascinated that the master left the servants no detailed instructions, didn’t tell them when he would return, and fully expected that they knew exactly what they should do with his money in his absence. They knew him well enough that they could act independently knowing what he expected. And the one the master was disappointed with was the one who failed to act. Perhaps he was waiting for instructions or some sign before he would act. I don’t know that this man (the doctor) was trying to make a specific point, but that conversation opened my eyes about ‘seeking God’s will’ and prayer.

    I have often thought (and said) that if I owned a business (I’ve owned a couple over the years) and I had an employee who asked me every time he or she needed to sharpen a pencil or order more soap for the bathroom I wouldn’t think ‘my what childlike dependency, I really love that guy’. I’d think, ‘you have worked here long enough to know your job and do it without asking me how all the time’. That’s called stewardship (which is what the parable is about) and exercising wisdom. I think that wisdom and stewardship come with maturity and are much more a sign of faith and ‘walking with God’ than constantly praying about every detail of our lives and constantly seeking to know ‘God’s will’ in every situation (I’m not sure God has a ‘will’ about every decision I make on a daily basis – does he really fret about whether I eat oatmeal or toast for breakfast?).

    • Spot on.

    • Yes, that’s a great analogy. I grew up in a church with a similar attitude about God’s will, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more comfortable with the notion that maybe God’s will for my life involves using the brain He gave me.

      • –> “…maybe God’s will for my life involves using the brain He gave me.”

        Amen! I have consistently pointed out, while reading and teaching out of the gospel accounts, that Jesus repeatedly encourages us to “USE YOUR BRAINS, PEOPLE!!!”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      (I’m not sure God has a ‘will’ about every decision I make on a daily basis – does he really fret about whether I eat oatmeal or toast for breakfast?).

      What you describe sounds like Analysis Paralysis with a Christianese coat of paint.

      (As someone prone to Analysis Paralysis, I recognize the symptoms.)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Can someone remove the above comment?
        My system hiccupped in mid-post and I had to repost below.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      (I’m not sure God has a ‘will’ about every decision I make on a daily basis – does he really fret about whether I eat oatmeal or toast for breakfast?)

      What you describe sounds like Analysis Paralysis with a Christianese coat of paint.

      (As someone prone to Analysis Paralysis, I recognize the symptoms.)

    • AMEN

  7. To resolve the angst of it creatively you might try this. Being that He knows and cares about the details of your life and needs no filling in on them, every time a thought pops into your head about the house, consider it the impetus to tell Him how insanely grateful you are for who He is and what a glory it is to be His child. Something like a simple meditative lovefest. A, “have I told you lately that I love you?”, moment. It may turn into some fairly continuous expressions of gratitude. It works for me. Consider any thought about the house to be like the morning alarm clock waking you up to feed your light to the Light. He does care about every hair, fewer though they may be.

    • –> “A, ‘have I told you lately that I love you?’, moment.”

      One of my consistent prayers for people is, “God, let them know how much you love them.”

      • It’s the whole kit and kabootle isn’t it? It’s what the whole thing is about.

        • And the beauty of it, it’s a prayer that’s good to pray for EVERYONE, regardless of friend or enemy, believer or non-believer, etc. etc.

  8. rhymeswithplague says:

    This post disappoints me so. I can’t imagine Michael Spencer ever writing it, even if he felt exactly as you do, CM. All those quotation marks are so unnecessary. Why not take it all the way and come up with your own CM Standard Post-Evangelical Wilderness Version of the Bible? You could have Jesus say:

    When (or if) you (bother to) “pray” say Our “Father”, who art in “Heaven”, hallowed (whatever that means) be thy “name”. Thy “kingdom” come, thy “will” be “done” on earth as it is in “Heaven”. Give us this day our “daily bread” and “forgive” us our “sins” (or “debts” or “trespasses”) as we…

    …and “lead” us not into “temptation” but “deliver” us from “evil”…

    Get the picture? I don’t think even Lutherans would stand for it.

    This is not meant to be an attack on you. Actually it feels more like the other way ‘round.

    I guess my evangelical hangover is stronger than yours

    • All those “quotes” are around Evangelical buzzwords (that, of course [sarcasm alert] are “biblical” even though most aren’t in the Bible). Those words have a life of their own (within Evangelical culture) and nobody ever asks if they are theologically valid (most of which probably aren’t) or “biblically sound” (which they aren’t either). Some are “biblical” (in the “found in the Bible” sense) but have meanings far different than their use in the Bible. CM is pointing out (I think) how Evangelical culture defines (or redefines) the practice of prayer to be something probably far different than how the early Christians understood (and practiced) it (as it has most aspects of the faith, even essential theology). I have said many times that if a first-century Christian (perhaps even Paul himself) visited an American Evangelical church they would either not recognize it as the same religion or ask ‘now exactly how did you get here from there?’

      • rhymeswithplague says:

        Gregg, I did realize that, and agree with what you’re saying, but the effect of the post is much different if the quotation marks are removed. Not quite so snarky.

        • Agreed. The quotes make it appear snarky, but they also highlight the point CM is making. Anyone who has spent time in Evangelical churches has heard (and probably used – I have) all those words. “I can relate!” (sorry for the snarky quotes) 🙂

      • You got the point, Greg. There’s this constant Evangelical anxiety about getting it right, about making sure I always consciously include God in every utterance and decision. This insider language makes me feel better and lets everyone else know I’m on the team and playing hard.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          There’s this constant Evangelical anxiety about getting it right, about making sure I always consciously include God in every utterance and decision.

          Until you become one of those who say “LORD! LORD! LOOOOORD!” in Matt 7:21.

          With a side effect of scaring off anyone around you who’s sick of the constant Jesus Juking.

          • Like the guy at San Francisco airport this morning who was loudly and constantly proclaiming God’s goodness and the power of Jesus… as he and his buddy cut in front of 30 people in the baggage check in line. 🙁

    • I think Michael would love this post. As someone who cared about language and refused to play the games we play around language, he would recognize that what I’m doing in using the quotation marks is identifying the way those in the evangelical tribe use these words rather than critiquing the words themselves.

      After all, he’s the one who said one of the big problems in evangelicalism is that we tend to be too “God-centered.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        After all, he’s the one who said one of the big problems in evangelicalism is that we tend to be too “God-centered.”

        So were the Gnostics — so “God-Centered” and Spiritual they had ceased to be human.

    • I’m not at all sure Michael wouldn’t have written something like this. After all, he thought the evangelical enterprise was on its way to total collapse, and he could be scathing when he wanted to be. This seems pretty tame compared to some of the critiques he weighed in with.

  9. Burro [Mule] says:

    Hunh –

    If you move one place over another, you will have different neighbors, you will take your custom to different shops, you may have a different mechanic, may worship in another church, etc. It seems like these are things that could be enfolded into the intercessions of the saints.

    That said, I am the most liturgical of pray-ers. I have less of the Holy Ghost than a haint, and probably make you and all the others here look like Jacob Boehme in ecstasy, but I will pray for you

  10. I think God is interested in the minutia of life, because he’s interested in us. That in itself is a gift.

    And any season or decision can be formational. It can be a means of meaningful interaction with God. You just wrote about your sacramental worldview. Wouldn’t this be a part of it?

    So even as you wrestle with those competing hangover voices, I don’t think God would begrudge you if you wished to have a chat with him about all of this.

    • Thanks, Sean. The chats I have had with God about this matter sound like this post!

      “God, I’m uncomfortable even talking with you about this. It all seems so self-indulgent! I know you care about our life, but this just seems like a normal decision you expect mature people to make. So I will, trusting that you’re involved.”

      • That’s from the heart. I got the impression from the post that you weren’t even able to get to a point of articulating those exact words/feelings. Sounds like a helpful reframing of “pray about it!”

        • Yeah, I had this long, meandering chat with God about the situation and my hesitancies to bring them before him the other day. The “hangover” I feel isn’t so much about those times of conversational, wandering, stream of consciousness prayer, but about the voices from the past I keep hearing in my head telling me that’s not bold enough or biblical enough or persistent enough. There are so many pious sayings and expectations about prayer (and other things I’ll talk about in future posts) in that world that creep up and harass me on a regular basis. Don’t even get me started on how this might look and feel if I came from a Pentecostal or Charismatic or Prosperity Gospel perspective!

          This is one reason I love liturgical prayer and praying the Psalms. They help keep me focused on conversing with God in a much more focused way, a way in which I enter the stream of faith and tradition, and am carried along rather than trying to figure it all out myself.

  11. rhymeswithplague says:

    That great theologian Lily Tomlin once asked why is it that when we talk to God it’s called prayer, but when he talks to us it’s called schizophrenia? Chaplain Mike, while trusting that God is involved in your normal decisions do you ever get any nudges or confirmations or other indications that you had made the right (or wrong) decision? My wife and I have asked God at times to direct us through His peace when several choices are possible, or to open and close doors. Is this too much like Gideon’s fleece? Perhaps I am overthinking this.

    • Oh sure, Bob. I don’t think any decisions we make are strictly rational. Intuition and feelings play a part. And if we believe in the personal presence of the Holy Spirit, we will experience his wisdom and guidance in some fashion (I’m not sure I can adequately define or describe that). But I also think we can overdo that to the point where we are not maturely using the faculties and gifts God has given us and expects us to use.

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    We also had, or were encouraged to have, regular personal “devotions.” A meeting with God each day to hear him speak through the Bible and to speak to him in prayer.

    AKA “Five Minutes Alone With The LOOOOOOOOOORD Every Morning!!!!!”
    (And yes, the guy that tag line was from actually pronounced it that way. Claimed it as a Cure-All for ANY and ALL problems you might have, and if you still had any, it was because you didn’t “Spend Five Minutes Alone With…”)

  13. I’m no longer evangelical and not sure I ever really fully bought in to it. I do have MIcah 6:8 posted rather inconspicuously on my office wall; it has been there for more than a decade. I try to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (don’t always succeed) but don’t pray much, and certainly not about fairly routine life decisions. And I don’t ask others to. I have a pretty good idea of what I’m supposed to do as Jesus follower.

    I get calls about once a year from earnest current students at the evangelical seminary I graduated from. They are fundraising calls, but they also always ask if there’s anything I want them to pray with me about. I always say no. Frankly this makes me intensely uncomfortable. They don’t know anything about me and yet they want to pray with/for me. Awkward. Classic evangelical approach.

    Prayer is incredibly private and intimate. And it seems to me it should be more about who we are than about every little thing we do.

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    One key sign of his leading was that the pray-er or group of pray-ers would feel “peace” about the decision.

    Does that remind anyone else of the Mormon expression “Burning in the Bosom”?

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    But I have this evangelical hangover. There’s a voice pounding in my head over and over:
    “Have you prayed about it?”
    “Why not?”

    See “Wretched Urgency”:
    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/64264

  16. This reminds me of a joke. If I can recall it correctly……

    A man was trapped on the roof of his house during a flood. He began to pray, Oh Lord please save and deliver me.

    Along came a log. And the man continued to pray.
    Along came a small boat. And the man continued to pray.
    Along came the authorities in a helicopter. And the man continued to pray.

    The flood waters continued to rise, drowning the man. When the man entered heaven, he asked God why didn’t you answer my prayer. The Lord responded, my child I sent you a log, a boat, and a helicopter. What the hell else did you want?

  17. Ah, prayer…

    CM, I hope this doesn’t sound too flippant, but it’s my experience that if you don’t feel the need to pray for something…don’t! To me, that’s the Holy Spirit telling me either “I’ve got this” or “Hey, I’m glad you’re leaving it to me.” If you feel relieved of a burden for praying for something, that, to me, is a sign that it’s okay to not pray about it. 🙂

    I’m in two men’s groups and lead an adult Sunday school class. I’m also the current facilitator of a prayer group at my daughter’s high school. Needless to say, we devote time to prayer in all four of those things. Funny thing is: I don’t understand prayer at all. I do it, but I don’t understand the nuances of why. Is it to change God’s mind about something? To get Him to hurry with an answer? Is it for my benefit? For the benefit of those I’m praying for? Or maybe it’s just to let others know I care? Maybe for some prayers, it’s all of those things. Maybe for others, it’s none of those things. All I know is that I’ve prayed for very deep stuff and I’ve prayed for rather silly stuff. (I’ve never prayed for a parking spot, though; I draw the line there!) I’ve seen prayer requests that I’ve not felt led to pray for.

    One of the things I enjoy about GROUP prayer is listening to the different ways people pray. (This hasn’t always been the case, as at times people can be so weird in their prayers, but it’s something I’ve come to appreciate.) Some are earnest and sincere beyond belief. Others are scattered and disjointed. Some are extremely reverent while others are very casual: “here I am God, complaining again.” There’s an odd beauty to the prayers of the people, especially when the people in a group are varied and whose experiences are all over the map.

    By the way…I just prayed for your situation! Sometimes when we feel we can’t pray for stuff, let others do it for ya!

  18. That shaming stuff is just an echo. It came from an incorrect understanding of God and what constitutes walking with Him. Feel free to stand up to it and say no. That said, to me the significant prayers of my life usually involved times when I was at a turning point or feeling very anxious. Often I had struggled long and hard to figure out how to move on from my present dilemma. If I could finally get alone with God and just pour it all out in surrender and total honesty, then things would seem to change, not immediately. Usually the resolution took a couple of years. Honestly, moving is stressful, so praying for God’s presence would make sense. Otherwise, if the decision making is not making you feel anxious and desperate, you are likely on the right track.

  19. brianthegrandad says:

    The subject of prayer came up a couple weeks ago in my small group. Several of the others were all about their prayer life and their journals and devotionals, and their constant conversation with God on all their daily things. When my turn came, I told them I prayed only small prayers of thanks, or asked for wisdom and discernment for certain things I might be facing, or perhaps a brief request for help for something that pops up concerning a friend or coworker, but no concerted prayer warrior, locked closet kind of thing. I told them I had lain face down years ago on the floor of a hospital room, begging for God’s miraculous intervention for my daughter, prayed til I ran out of words and had only groans and tears. The room was quiet. I told them God knew what I needed. the leader was pretty cool about it. he didn’t dismiss it, or condemn it, but addressed it. He pointed out David’s pleading and fasting for his and Bathsheba’s son. How David responded afterward. He acknowledged that the truth was somewhere in between, “Oh God, what socks shall I wear today?” and an intellectual, dry resignation of “God knows what I need and what I’m thinking and I’m not bothering him”. No Jesus jukes. I’m not sure how it might change my prayers or my views on it, but it has given me something to think about. my small group is pretty diverse, and the leader is a wise and caring guy. This was smooth bourbon to my soul: no hangover. 😉

  20. first thing each morning
    my coffee cup’s full of prayers
    I drink them all down

  21. Susan Dumbrell says:

    I am at odds with the thoughts on this.

    I do not approve of a ‘grocery list’ of items presented to God in prayer,

    But – and I am sure we looked at this a few weeks back, Paul says

    Philippians 4 v6.
    KJV. ” Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”

    I live alone so a quick prayer to God, not looking for a parking space, but more for companionship of the Holy Spirit during the day is often offered. Prayers at the end of the day, similar to Compline put me at rest. I bring my nearest and dearest into God’s presence for Him to Bless.

    I ask where am I digressing?
    I am not a Pentecostal, Charismatic, Evangelistic Christian. Just a middle of the road somewhat High Anglican.
    Some of what you say Mike is too controversial. Why do I go the Church each week for prayer, praise and thanksgiving?
    I could be going to the local tennis club for fellowship/friends.

    Dare I pray for God to bless us all?

    Susan

    • Susan, I think Mike speaks to a particular effect of growing up in the the evangelical culture you’ve just never been burned by. This post made tons of sense in the context of having done so. I don’t know that it makes sense outside that context.

      So mostly I think you should take from it gratitude for not having those burns?

  22. Elspeth R Hunt says:

    Stumbled upon your site looking for info re. the ‘Treasury of Daily Prayer’. Sad to hear you had bad experiences within evangelical circles. I have had both good and bad, as would be the case in any church, including Lutheran. Liturgy can be helpful, but it can also be a hindrance. I am glad that I have been able to draw from many different traditions. Any tradition can be shallow, even with the best prayers in the world. Yes, God does care about the little things, but He trains us to pray from a heavenly perspective. I don’t feel guilty praying about my miniscule needs as well as the people being persecuted for their faith in other parts of the world, because my God is big enough to take care of both. I can’t limit Him. There are many solid and inspiring books by evangelicals on prayer . Try Mueller, R A Torrey, E M Bounds etc.The key to not getting burnt by church is look to Jesus, not to traditions, or denominations. It never fails! Will He find faith on earth?

  23. Iain Lovejoy says:

    God, one supposes, gave us a brain with the intention that we should make decisions for ourselves. To pray that God tells you what to do is to ask that God take away from you that responsibility and do it for you.
    If I pray about a decision I generally don’t expect to be told what to do by a booming voice from heaven, or even a little voice in my head (although this may be only because I have never had this): rather I talk, reason and argue it out with God and ask that he guides me through to work it out for myself.
    Somebody once told me that the principle purpose of prayer was not asking for stuff but building a relationship with God. I have also heard it said that the point of petitionary prayer is not to nag God into giving us what we want, but rather because God wills that we should be participants in his saving grace, so that he doesn’t save us as passive and supine recipients of his goodness but instead through our active prayers.
    I think what I am saying is, is that the answer to your question “Isn’t something like this just a matter of responsibility, stewardship, and common sense wisdom?” is of course “yes”, but in which case you should pray *for* “responsibility, stewardship, and common sense wisdom” and one way of exercising and developing “responsibility, stewardship, and common sense wisdom” is through talking to God in prayer.