Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | March 6, 2015

Thoughts on Prayer

As I wrote, be taking up some of the slack since Mike Drinkard decided to pause in his posting of hymn lyrics on Facebook.  This is a meditation from a year or so ago.

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“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” Kierkegaard.

The Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and author lived from 1813-1855. The brilliant idea quoted above did not, however, take the thought to a specific conclusion regarding Christians’ prayers.
Let’s take Kirkegaard’s concept and apply it to the prayer Christ taught us.  In the New International Version of the Bible, we’ll look at Matthew’s account of Jesus’ teachings about prayer.
In Chapter 6, verse 8, Jesus tells his disciples, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”  This is a clear illustration of what Kierkegaard meant. Why, then do Christians need to pray, if God already knows what they need? Because of the change prayer works in the nature of the one who prays.
In Matthew 6, verses 9-13, Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray. We’ll examine the prayer section by section and apply Kierkegaard’s concept.
Verse 9: “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,”
The person in prayer is acknowledging the omnipotence and holiness of the Father and by a sincere understanding of the glory of the Father, that individual is coming closer to God.  In the original Aramaic, according to one interpretation, the verse says, “Our Eternal Creator, parent to us all.” We can only address God as “Father” because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Verse 10: “…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
A Christian in prayer whose mind and soul are tuned to communion with the Father will realize that the Kingdom of God is fulfilled when His will is done without pause or question. The one praying will be changed to more completely follow the teachings of Jesus, to live within the will of God. If we pray for the Kingdom of God to come, our awareness that we must be ready to welcome His coming will be infused in our consciousness.
Verse 11: “Give us today our daily bread.”
How does this change the soul of the one in prayer? The prayer for fulfillment highlights a realization that all that we have, on a daily basis, comes from God.  He knows our needs already, but wants us to continually realize that our sustenance comes only from Him and He is the giver of every good and perfect gift and his love takes care of us.
Verse 12: “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.”
For some, if not all of us, this is the hardest part of the prayer to honestly pray.  Jesus was quite specific about this element of his template for a Christian’s prayer. It is easy to ask for one’s own forgiveness while holding an unforgiving grudge against another. But the words of Jesus, which came directly after his teachings about prayer, are clear and powerful.
Matthew 6, Verses 14-15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, you Father will not forgive your sins.”
These words form a clear, unambiguous warning about forgiveness. Christians need to heed the injunction and look deeply inside to find forgiveness of others.  This, then, is another way in which Jesus’ prayer changes the nature of the one praying.
The final section of the model prayer says, in Matthew 6, Verse 13:
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
These words are the conclusion of the prayer. The statements many remember as coming after this, do not appear in most modern translations as the words of Jesus. They were probably added as a doxology, an additional prayer of praise, by the early Church.
For the praying Christian, speaking to the Lord about strengthening against temptation should be a vivid reminder to stay far away from situations that could lead to violations of His will.  Then, with only the smallest of pauses, follows a plea for protection. When a Christian asks God to shield them against the evil one in the same breath as praying for help in avoiding temptation, in some ways, the concept is the same. Remember, the evil one often referred to as “the tempter.”
The prayer Jesus taught his disciples was not a prayer for rote repetition. What He taught was how we should pray, not what the exact words of our prayers should be. Christ was specific about the hypocrisy of those who are only mouthing memorized formulas.
Prayer must be genuine and come from deep within the soul of a Christian to alter the nature of the person speaking to Our Father.  God knows our needs before we ask Him; it is we who benefit from prayer that puts us closer to His presence.

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Responses

  1. Amen!


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