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Source: (consider it) Thread: What is praying for and does it do anything?
DaleMaily
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The part of becoming a Christian I've found the hardest by far is praying, as no matter how hard I try it feels like I (or "we", when in a group or at church) am asking God to either:

a) Interfere in someone else's free will, either through blatant direct action (e.g. healing) or some sort of nudging (e.g. bringing friends/family to faith), which is both selfish on my part and contrary to the concept itself
b) Change His mind - again, selfish
c) Both of the above

Add to that the fact that I feel bloody awkward when I try to pray out loud (usually when prompted).

A couple of caveats:

I actually quite like the intercessionary prayer at my church, although I feel that's more because it's a comforting period of (near) silence surrounded by other Christians, rather than what the actual prayers are about.

I do really like the Lord's prayer, and "pray along" to it on the Daily Service.

As a relatively new Christian I feel self-conscious about sticking out (I do generally), whether it's on theological/social positions or the "functional" (for want of a better word) bits like praying, as it feels like I am missing out on something if everyone else is doing it. I'm sure there's also a bit of wanting to be seen to tick the various boxes, which I know is not the point and shouldn't be the case, but it's mainly out of not wanting people to think I've misplaced my faith.

So what am I missing?

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The more I get to know the less I find that I understand.

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rolyn
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quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:
I actually quite like the intercessionary prayer at my church, although I feel that's more because it's a comforting period of (near) silence surrounded by other Christians, rather than what the actual prayers are about.

I do really like the Lord's prayer, and "pray along" to it on the Daily Service.

If these things work for you then that by itself is a positive. The subject matter of certain prayers and the nature of the delivery can cause a heavy heart in me at times.

I can't answer your other points other than to say that Faith can feel like a kind of selfishness, bit like a passionate love for someone or something maybe?

No-one should be made to pray aloud in company if they are not comfortable doing so.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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Martin60
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Gratitude.

Naked, helpless, searingly honest vulnerability.

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Love wins

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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I gave up on the personal prayer, asking for things, and related. Liturgy, segments thereof, often musical setting of. It provides me comfort. And at the end of things, what else is there?

In a much more obtuse vein, gratitude is vastly over-rated. As an empty flesh-bag of mostly water who cannot go with air for more than 90 seconds without expiring (on a good day), and without peeing every hour or at least believing I need to, I say up with the vulnerability thing too.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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Amanda B. Reckondwythe

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Bottom line, the only thing we can really pray for is to know and accept God's will.

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"We're not in Wonderland anymore, Alice." – Charles Manson

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Amanda B. Reckondwythe:
Bottom line, the only thing we can really pray for is to know and accept God's will.

And yet. And yet. We are told:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7)

Doesn't say we'll get what we want, but peace. I suppose if what you want is peace, you'll get what you pray for.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:
The part of becoming a Christian I've found the hardest by far is praying, as no matter how hard I try it feels like I (or "we", when in a group or at church) am asking God to either:

a) Interfere in someone else's free will, either through blatant direct action (e.g. healing) or some sort of nudging (e.g. bringing friends/family to faith), which is both selfish on my part and contrary to the concept itself
b) Change His mind - again, selfish
c) Both of the above

My beliefs are a bit edgy (sorta radical Wesleyan) so with the caveat that I'm not representing the whole of Christiandom by a longshot, my belief is that there is a spiritual battle of sorts going on (much as I hate war imagery)-- a la Eph. 6. This of course has been taken to absurd extremes by many of my Pentecostal brethren who see a demon under every bed, and less so by Walter Wink who speaks more in terms of "forces for evil" that are influencing oppressive systems. But the longshot in my belief system is that not everything that happens in the world as it is right now is God's will. Things like genocide, torture, child abuse, slavery-- not God's will. Arguably, even natural suffering like famine or disease is not God's will. So we can and should pray for healing, food for the hungry, release for captives, confident that we are praying in line with God's will. Praying in this way aligns our hearts with God's heart-- puts us on the side of good rather than evil. To your specific points:

a. I do not believe God will override anyone's free will, but I do believe the Spirit can be persuasive to those who are open to God's leading, so there's no harm-- and potentially great good-- to be accomplished in praying along those lines.

b. People in my belief system do believe God relates to us, is moved by us, so there is the possibility even that God will, in fact, "change his mind"-- there are a startling number of passages in Scripture that suggest as such. But that is, as I said, an edgy, non-mainstream belief so if that seems "out there" to you, don't worry, you're in good company.


quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:

I actually quite like the intercessionary prayer at my church, although I feel that's more because it's a comforting period of (near) silence surrounded by other Christians, rather than what the actual prayers are about.

At the very least, that sort of comfort and community is at least part of what communal prayer is about, so I wouldn't say there's anything wrong with you focusing on that aspect of it.


quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:

I do really like the Lord's prayer, and "pray along" to it on the Daily Service.

Me too! Jesus gave us the Lord's prayer as a pattern for prayer, so "praying along" to it is perhaps the very best way to pray, whether as part of a corporate worship service or in private prayer. I like to use it as a sort of rubric-- filling in the blanks after each line along these lines:

...hallowed be thy name (specific praise for who God is)
... thy kingdom come, thy will be done (intercessory prayer for places where we desperately need to see God's will, e.g. Syria, Chechnya, etc)
... give us our daily bread (specific requests for my needs)
...forgive us our debts (confession)
...as we forgive our debtors (prayer to soften my heart towards those I'm angry/bitter towards)

quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:
As a relatively new Christian I feel self-conscious about sticking out (I do generally), whether it's on theological/social positions or the "functional" (for want of a better word) bits like praying, as it feels like I am missing out on something if everyone else is doing it. I'm sure there's also a bit of wanting to be seen to tick the various boxes, which I know is not the point and shouldn't be the case, but it's mainly out of not wanting people to think I've misplaced my faith.

Quite a lot of people don't like praying out loud, and there's absolutely nothing in Scripture or church tradition to suggest you need to-- ever. What you have described above is entirely orthodox and well within the mainstream of Christianity-- no reason you would "stick out" by silently enjoying prayer in the ways you mentioned.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
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quote:
Originally posted by Amanda B. Reckondwythe:
Bottom line, the only thing we can really pray for is to know and accept God's will.

Incomplete. Also to accept that really bad things happen and God will allow utterly complete free will for evil by other humans. Which is the awesome and terrible promise of human dominion over all things.

Cursing God is also prayer.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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Nick Tamen

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I'm reminded of Anne Lamott's observation that most of her prayers could be summed up in three words: Help, Thanks, and Wow. In fact, she wrote a book on it. As with much of what she has written (see my signature), I find that boiling-down of things helpful.

Like you, I've always been uncomfortable praying when anyone else can hear. Growing up in a family full of ministers can do that to you—the bar is set high. And it spilled over into private prayer. I had standards even for the quality of those prayers. Then there are the other issues you ask about—am I asking for a mind change or for God to control someone? Am I asking for miracles?

A habit of praying the psalms helped a great deal. I found they covered much of what I needed or wanted to pray about. A change of perspective about what I'm doing when I pray (a la Anne Lamott) helped, too.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Lamb Chopped
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I'm thinking a bit about your concern to be seen ticking the right boxes and not look like you've misplaced your faith. I wonder if there's anything you can do to, er, minimize the eyes on you as you sort out what it means to be you, a new Christian? Because that sense of being on stage really sucks, particularly if you're surrounded by worried or interfering extroverts.

One thing I do that comes naturally to me (I'm an introvert) is to basically retreat into silence. That is, when people ask me questions that feel intrusive ("So how's your walk with the Lord going?") I smile and say, "Hey, great to see you in church today!" or similar. Since most people are all too happy to talk about themselves, this gambit often works.

It can help to find a mature Christian you love and trust (hopefully someone old in the faith, like in their sixties or seventies with a lifetime of faith behind them) and use them as your sounding-board or person-to-ask-questions-to. Because then you avoid having a bunch of earnest people all trying to stir the pot of your faith at once, and getting up in your business--plus you know you're getting good counsel. And again, if anybody gets inquisitive, you can say, "Oh yes, X has been very helpful to me" and just repeat it till they go away.

Forgive me if I've gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick. It's just I spent some time when I was younger in a very up-in-your-business evangelical setting, and it made me very anxious and unsettled. So I'm passing along the defensive maneuvers I know.

[ 08. June 2017, 04:55: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:
The part of becoming a Christian I've found the hardest by far is praying, as no matter how hard I try it feels like I (or "we", when in a group or at church) am asking God to either:

a) Interfere in someone else's free will, either through blatant direct action (e.g. healing) or some sort of nudging (e.g. bringing friends/family to faith), which is both selfish on my part and contrary to the concept itself
b) Change His mind - again, selfish
c) Both of the above

Add to that the fact that I feel bloody awkward when I try to pray out loud (usually when prompted).

A couple of caveats:

I actually quite like the intercessionary prayer at my church, although I feel that's more because it's a comforting period of (near) silence surrounded by other Christians, rather than what the actual prayers are about.

I do really like the Lord's prayer, and "pray along" to it on the Daily Service.

As a relatively new Christian I feel self-conscious about sticking out (I do generally), whether it's on theological/social positions or the "functional" (for want of a better word) bits like praying, as it feels like I am missing out on something if everyone else is doing it. I'm sure there's also a bit of wanting to be seen to tick the various boxes, which I know is not the point and shouldn't be the case, but it's mainly out of not wanting people to think I've misplaced my faith.

So what am I missing?

Now, about the prayer stuff. Lots of good advice upthread already. Here's my witterings--

It's okay to ask God to change someone else's mind--after all, you doubtless try to change other people's minds yourself on a daily basis in far more direct ways.
"Don't lick that, you don't know where it's been."
"After my work last quarter, I think I deserve a raise."
"Marry me?"

You can trust God not to ride roughshod over their free will--he's much more tender of our right to choose than other human beings are!--so if you ask for something he thinks is out-of-bounds, he'll certainly say "no" and put an end to it toot sweet. So it's safe to ask even for things you feel iffy about. You are in the position of a two-year-old asking for your favorite dinner. There's no harm in asking for ice cream--you probably won't get it, but all you've wasted is a breath. Your father's good sense will prevent any dangerous requests.

Oh, and selfishness is fine. (let me revisit that [Razz] ) Selfishness is real, and God already knows what you're hoping and wishing, so you might as well let it all hang out in prayer--you're not fooling him. And he's apt to take a far more lenient view of your "selfishness" then you do, because he knows all the circumstances around it (including the ones you don't know) and so he's got all your excuses ready prepared, if I can put it that way. Plus asking even for ridiculous things is a child's trust in a parent, which is a Good Thing. I don't get mad when my son asks for a 300 $ technotoy that's grabbed his imagination. I will probably say no, but I'm just glad he trusts me enough to ask me--that he believes I care enough for him that he can bring even absurd or childish requests to me and not worry I might yell at him. (I never dared trust my parents that much.)

There's a word in Vietnamese, "lam num" (bad spelling, sorry). It means to fawn on someone, to wheedle, to try to charm your mother or father into giving you something the way that children do--leaning on your knee, saying "Oh, you're my favorite mother" and other absurdities. Lam num is by very nature silly and gets laughed at by everyone, even the person doing it. But lam num is a compliment. Nobody ever lam num-ed on someone they were afraid of.

On praying out loud--it's fine if you never learn to do this. Your church may be in the habit, and that's awkward; but there's plenty of Christians who never learn to do it lifelong. There are others, like me, who speak like children when asked to pray out loud. I've never mastered the "Oh Lord, we just wanna" language, or the flowery pulpit stuff, and I'm okay with that. It does mean that if we're in a group praying out loud, mine is going to be the simplest and shortest, and maybe fall with a thud as everyone wonders "Is that all?" I don't care. God's the only audience that matters here, and Jesus' public prayers were notably simple (and usually short).

If you choose not to pray aloud in a group where everybody else is praying, one possibility is to memorize a single sentence prayer (e.g. "thank you for bringing us here together, Lord") and say that and only that in the group. Or say "pass". If anyone gets anxious, smile and say "I'm still learning." That should shut them up.

In a worst case scenario, go find an evangelical Lutheran church. The chance of you being asked to pray out loud are slim and none. [Snigger]

[ 08. June 2017, 05:15: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Gamaliel
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DaleMale is in London, Lamb Chopped.

Not many Lutheran churches there, let alone evangelical Lutheran ones.

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Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Boogie

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I pray to connect with God.

I don't expect anything because I believe God has already given us everything we'll ever need. I don't believe God gives us anything except Himself.

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Garden. Room. Walk

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MaryLouise
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When I was struggling with prayer in my 20s, someone mentioned a maxim from Dom Chapman: 'Pray as you can, not as you can't.'

At different times traditional liturgical prayer, intercessory prayer and contemplative prayers have helped me. Communal prayer has felt more necessary at times, solitary prayer has been important to me at other times.

All the same, prayer remains a mystery to me and I expect it always will.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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mark_in_manchester

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I'm not sure when I 'became a Christian' - it must be over 30 years ago, and I'm benefiting from this thread greatly!

Dale - I'm not RC but I use 'sacredspace.ie' as a guide to daily prayer and bible reading, which is put together by Jesuits. It's worth a look. It uses a set framework around a small number of prayers which come up by random number generator (and the lectionary reading for the day, which is set, with some specific guidance on it if you want it).

The 'oh, there's that one again' nature of the prayers is a bit like the Lord's Prayer, and reminds me that prayer is more like jogging or doing a jigsaw puzzle with my kid, than like reading up on calculus. That is, it's a 'doing' activity where the 'doing' is about all there is to it, rather than a 'knowing' activity based around fact gathering or accomplishing something. And surprisingly, 'just doing' turns out to me to be essential, like 'just breathing' - though easier to neglect.

(And LC - the image of a vast, friendly, silent desert just behind me into which I can step back any time I want, is so helpful to me at the moment.)

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"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

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la vie en rouge
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My favourite book on prayer is CS Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm. The book is made up of his personal correspondence with a friend, in which they discuss the subject of prayer.

In their discussion they finally get honest and get down to the question of prayer’s irksomeness. If prayer is supposed to be a natural part of the Christian life, why does it feel so irksome? Shouldn’t we look forward to it more and not regard it as a duty and a chore? I forget what he concludes. I’ll have a look when I have the book to hand.

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Rent my holiday home in the South of France

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DaleMaily
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Thanks for all your replies so far.
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
Because that sense of being on stage really sucks, particularly if you're surrounded by worried or interfering extroverts.
One thing I do that comes naturally to me (I'm an introvert) is to basically retreat into silence. That is, when people ask me questions that feel intrusive ("So how's your walk with the Lord going?") I smile and say, "Hey, great to see you in church today!" or similar. Since most people are all too happy to talk about themselves, this gambit often works.

You haven’t got the wrong end of the stick - that's basically how I feel. I’d say I’m more “shy” than an “introvert” but in this context the resulting anxiety is the same. I get the impression that once I’ve had the benefit of more experience as a Christian and more confidence in what my personal faith actually consists of (theology, worship style etc.) I can be more confident in not caring what people think and politely tell people where to go if they criticise me, but at the moment I feel more vulnerable to this at this stage.
And thank you for your post on the topic specifically – I’ve found it very useful!
quote:
Originally posted by mark_in_manchester:
Dale - I'm not RC but I use 'sacredspace.ie' as a guide to daily prayer and bible reading, which is put together by Jesuits. It's worth a look. It uses a set framework around a small number of prayers which come up by random number generator (and the lectionary reading for the day, which is set, with some specific guidance on it if you want it).

I have the C of E ‘Reflections’ app which has a daily reading and prayer, which I’ve been following (though have lapsed recently…), and this sounds similar to sacred space…
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
I pray to connect with God.
I don't expect anything because I believe God has already given us everything we'll ever need. I don't believe God gives us anything except Himself.

I like the idea of that, but is it possible to square that with someone asking you to pray for them? Whenever someone does say “pray for me” or “keep me in your prayers”, I feel a little knot of guilt as I invariably don’t do it. On the other hand, I keep them in my thoughts – can that be the same thing? And since God knows my thoughts, desires and wishes before I even know them, have I already done the prayer? If so, do I need to do it again out loud?

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The more I get to know the less I find that I understand.

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Felafool
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Welcome to the unnumbered multitude of Christians who share your situation. I have been a follower of Jesus for over half a century and still find 'prayer' unnatural, awkward and sometimes futile. If we are talking about verbalising needs (either out loud with others, or silently by ourselves) then that indeed is the hardest part of what prayer might be. I believe ultimately prayer is about an encounter with God.

Yet there are other ways to pray - as you have discovered, just being with others during 'intercessions' can be such an encounter with God, as can be saying 'The Lord's Prayer'. Other ways to 'pray' have been mentioned in previous posts, and include silence, music, candles, pictures, breathing, thinking, writing, listening.....the list goes on and the books have been written.

Personally I find picture praying is relatively natural for me - rather than use words, I just look at pictures of people or places that I wish to pray for, or visualise them in my mind. I choose to believe that the Holy Spirit works in and through me as I do this, helping me when I do not know what or how to pray.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that prayer isn't just about one model, and whatever you find helpful to position yourself for an encounter with God is OK.

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I don't care if the glass is half full or half empty - I ordered a cheeseburger.

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Nick Tamen

Ship's Wayfaring Fool
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quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:
quote:
Originally posted by Boogie:
I pray to connect with God.
I don't expect anything because I believe God has already given us everything we'll ever need. I don't believe God gives us anything except Himself.

I like the idea of that, but is it possible to square that with someone asking you to pray for them? Whenever someone does say “pray for me” or “keep me in your prayers”, I feel a little knot of guilt as I invariably don’t do it.
"God, be present with Sue. Give her your peace."?

quote:
On the other hand, I keep them in my thoughts – can that be the same thing? And since God knows my thoughts, desires and wishes before I even know them, have I already done the prayer? If so, do I need to do it again out loud?
Oh, I hope it's the same thing, because it's often my pattern. I have a hunch that the prayer vs thoughts distinction matters a lot more to us than it does to God.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Martin60
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If anyone asks me to pray for them I always do it there and then or I never will.

I'll pray their email, text or letter too.

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Love wins

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Lamb Chopped
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That works really well, and gets the guilt burden off your back.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by DaleMaily:

Whenever someone does say “pray for me” or “keep me in your prayers”, I feel a little knot of guilt as I invariably don’t do it. On the other hand, I keep them in my thoughts – can that be the same thing? And since God knows my thoughts, desires and wishes before I even know them, have I already done the prayer? If so, do I need to do it again out loud?

I'm in two minds about this. On the one hand, I tend to believe that it's the whole life that prays, not necessarily words.

On the other hand, I feel a need to make a distinction between my thoughts and my prayers, or else it just feels as if I'm talking (or thinking) to myself, because even though God the Spirit may be within me, I'm definitely not God! My mind is not God's mind. And if all my nice thoughts are prayers what about my bad thoughts??

I agree with the others that prayer is hard, but I am a fan of 'arrow prayers'. These are quick prayers that can be offered up to God in the busyness of everyday life. Whenever your friend and his problem pops into your mind, that's when you can whisper a quick prayer specifically to God, e.g. 'Oh Lord, please help So-and-so today.'

quote:


I get the impression that once I’ve had the benefit of more experience as a Christian and more confidence in what my personal faith actually consists of (theology, worship style etc.) I can be more confident in not caring what people think and politely tell people where to go if they criticise me, but at the moment I feel more vulnerable to this at this stage.

Of course, you may eventually choose to mix with the kinds of Christians who never ask you about your 'walk with God' or your prayer life. They do exist, and you never have to tell them 'where to go' (not on that score, anyway). But that kind of hands-off approach comes with its own problems.

[ 08. June 2017, 18:23: Message edited by: SvitlanaV2 ]

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blackbeard
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For what it's worth: I've been a Christian for half a century, and for the whole of that time I have been complete rubbish at formal prayers.

It's been said, "he who sings prays twice", and I'll cling to that. I like to think I'm good at singing; at any rate, it's hard to stop me.

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cliffdweller
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I happen to like journaled prayers-- I write them like a letter to God that no one will ever read. They help me to focus and just connect in a way that feels natural to me. But there's nothing inherently better about that. It's not really inherently better for them to be focused and clear. I often find my bedtime prayers to be a sleepy rambling mush that drifts off to sleep. I think that's ok-- I love God and feel safe enough with him to drift off in mid prayer

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Freddy
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
I suppose if what you want is peace, you'll get what you pray for.

Nice.

I think this is a good, and very different, explanation of prayer, along the lines of mousethief's comment.

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"Consequently nothing is of greater importance to a person than knowing what the truth is." Swedenborg

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simontoad
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I like using formal prayers and developing patterns in my behavior that give me space to recite the formal prayers I like. This might be because they are ancient, or the translation is good, or I like the physical act of speaking the words. Oh yeah, I recite prayers aloud, usually in a whisper.

I once had access to a few bookshelves where retired ministers or dead ministers spouses left some of their old books, and I use them as a resource usually, but sometimes the internet. I have Catholic and Orthodox tastes, and I love thinking that my thoughts are joining with the prayers of untold numbers of people throughout the ages.

My practice seemingly inevitably leads to periods of peaceful silence. This is all solo prayer, but I have had those moments in church.

I'm fine with intercessory prayer both communally and otherwise. I couldn't give a stuff about the theology of it, but have no problems with others being interested. I know that I have needed to express myself in many ways before God and I just bloody do it.

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The opinions expressed above are transitory emotional responses and do not necessarily reflect the considered views of the author.

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Lyda*Rose

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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
If anyone asks me to pray for them I always do it there and then or I never will.

I'll pray their email, text or letter too.

That is exactly what I do.

"Will you pray for....?"

"Sure I will."

Then I say an immediate, simple, silent prayer. And if I pray again later, it's all to the good.

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"Dear God, whose name I do not know - thank you for my life. I forgot how BIG... thank you. Thank you for my life." ~from Joe Vs the Volcano

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cliffdweller
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I've found that a helpful discipline as well.

I also like the use of written prayers-- either from the Psalms themselves (that's what they're there for, after all!) or other collections of prayers. I think they're particularly useful for folks like the OP who are uncertain/feeling inadequate about their prayers. Again, there's no right or wrong way to pray, your eloquence is not important, but if it becomes a stumbling block and you're feeling overly anxious about it, simply using others words is a great way past that. If you decide you do want to pray out loud in front of others (although again, no need for you to ever feel like you have to) this could be a good entry vehicle for that.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Sarah G
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Could anyone recommend a wide-ranging collection of prayers? These are helpful to beginner and experienced alike.
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cliffdweller
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It's really old, but I actually really like John Baillie's Diary of Private Prayer. And, of course, the psalms

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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MaryLouise
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I love the psalms too. And many of them I know by heart which is helpful when I'm sitting in planes during bouts of turbulence or waiting to go into surgery.

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angelfish
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Lots of the Psalms (which I guess are all prayers???) have "selah" at the end of sections - which I am told is an instruction to pause, reflect, wait. I think that the selah is as important a part of praying as the words/thoughts themselves.

Have a look at Psalm 3 (to take one example). David just starts off by telling God what's on his mind and how he's feeling, then he has a little Selah. The next thing he says is a truth about God's character, so presumably the moment of reflection allowed this truth to permeate his thoughts. Then he has another Selah and by the end of the prayer he knows what to ask God to do. You can see God working in David, encouraging and strengthening his resolve through the process of the prayer, including those important moments of silent waiting.

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Martin60
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Aye, giving ourselves time to think in the right frame of mind.

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Love wins

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angelfish
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! Martin60 ! You just agreed with me. Are you feeling OK?

{by the way the selah is basically what my church's 24-7 prayer room is all about)

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"As God is my witness, I WILL kick Bishop Brennan up the arse!"

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Martin60
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Ohhhhhh, we find a way of making the same language mean different things angelfish. In this case I suspect we mean the SAME thing! Or at least in overlap, with differences beyond. It's easier with Muslims of course!

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Love wins

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Cathscats
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Does prayer change things? Most definitely. And very often the first thing it changes is the person praying! Which is only to be expected. Prayer is or involves spending time with God, and how can you do that, even for a short time, and not be changed?

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"...damp hands and theological doubts - the two always seem to go together..." (O. Douglas, "The Setons")

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Komensky
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quote:
Originally posted by Cathscats:
Does prayer change things? Most definitely. And very often the first thing it changes is the person praying! Which is only to be expected. Prayer is or involves spending time with God, and how can you do that, even for a short time, and not be changed?

There are several (many?) distinctions to be made in modern understandings of prayer. Prayer is not an external power (like The Force in the Star Wars films), but rather an internal action.You cannot 'aim' it at things or people. There was a long piece in one of the weekend supplements in the Grauniad about a year or so ago about belief and self-healing across folk religions and established religions. The practice has demonstrable psychological benefits for those doing the praying (broadly speaking), but no external force, like a god, godess or spirit which empowers it. Still, many people across a variety of religions and no religion find prayer-like practices helpful and stress reducing.

K.

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"The English are not very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity." - George Bernard Shaw

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hatless

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Someone (his sister, I think) said that William Carey never prayed without praying for those in slavery. Carey was a pioneer of mission and lived most of his life in Bengal, working in education, social reform, translation and evangelism. Before leaving Britain we organised a boycott of West Indian sugar. In India he campaigned against child sacrifice and widow burning.

Prayer can bring a focus and coherence. What we pray about reminds us and others what we are about as people, and this rubs off on others. I might campaign and give money to fight climate change, I might Tweet about Corbyn or cycling facilities, but what do I really care about in my core? Listen to me pray when I am amongst my faith community in the context of worship, and that will tell you.

So though I agree that prayer is not an external power like the Force, it does play a powerful role in shifting the public discourse, the zeitgeist. And the word on the streets and in social media has real power.

I understand that the Word, the sent Son of God as in John 1, is better understood as discourse or conversation or rumour than as a unit in a sentence.

Speech has power, and that is heightened when, say, a politician responds to a major disaster. In one sense what they say is trivial - it was very bad, we care about the victims, we want to learn lessons - but we listen hard to catch the personal commitment behind their words. Words at a wedding, words when we part, words at a funeral, words at some commencement or conclusion have extra meaning. Sometimes they lay bare what we call someone's heart. They may be words we all mean. They do work.

Prayer is often about all this stuff. There is no external operation, but there is a sort of spell making going on, and it's real.

This is prayer spoken and heard, but that is supported by private and personal prayer.

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My crazy theology in novel form

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Tortuf
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My experience is that God is not a great cosmic vending machine and prayers aimed at getting specific things is not time well spent.

Rather, my experience is that prayer to accept God's creation as God presents it to us without filters of fear, judgment, and the need for things to be some special way for me to be Ok, is helpful. I then ask to accept God's guidance and carry it out to the best of my ability. In doing so I know that the result is not in my grasp; that my task is to do my best.

I move on to seeking to see and understand that all of God's children are equally beloved of God and that my judgment is not necessary or helpful.

Then I ask for God to help me have gratitude.

My prayers, though imperfect, are about changing me instead of God. My experience is that prayer brings me peace. My peace helps me to have the power to do the next right thing.

When I pray about people my thought is to hold them up to God in my heart. And prayer in my heart about people I have wronged and who I think have wronged me is helpful.

YMMV

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Pigwidgeon

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Tortuf!!! It's great to see you here again!

[Yipee]

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Don't keep calm. Go change the world.

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Tortuf
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Thanks. Though it might be time for a visit.
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Martin60
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Worth the long absence. I only wish my own narrative was as defined. I try and start and end the day with gratitude. My inadequacies between are utterly, hopelessly resistant to change.

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Love wins

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roybart
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posted by DaleMaily:
quote:
Whenever someone does say "pray for me" or "keep me in your prayers", I feel a little knot of guilt as I invariably don't do it. On the other hand, I keep them in my thoughts -- can that be the same thing? And since God knows my thoughts, desires and wishes before I even know them, have I already done the prayer?
Why not? ... as long as I actually follow through. Thinking actively about another living soul involves focusing on THEM (not me). Done reverentially, it can certainly be a kind of prayer. And listening during this time is a big part of it. If I am patient and open in my heart, something might come to me that I might actually do to help in a practical sense.

quote:
... do I need to do it again out loud?
Why not? When I am alone I frequently speak these "thoughts" aloud. Somehow this makes them more real. My cat -- my only other auditor -- has no problem with this, so why should I?

Posted by Boogie:
quote:
I pray to connect with God.
Me too. This is especially important when it comes to listening, something I am not always good at.

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"The consolations of the imaginary are not imaginary consolations."
-- Roger Scruton

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Martin60
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His number's always engaged. But I listen to myself talking to Him while I wait.

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Love wins

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MaryLouise
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Tortuf, your post really touched me.

I believe in intercessory prayer and have since childhood. I can't explain it but I spend a great deal of time praying for others and am comforted in difficult times to know others are praying for me, especially in times of aridity or doubt when I can't pray for myself.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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Penny S
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I'm going through an arid time at the moment. My friend speaks of amazing answers to his prayers at times. I'm stuck in that phrase about God always answering, but sometimes the answer is "NO". It isn't sometimes, it's always.
And I don't think that praying for someone to be able to return to her own home, which she apparently wants, and being able to occupy my own home as my own home is particularly selfish.
I don't appreciate apparent "yes" answers appearing, to be met with joy and thanks, and then being snatched away again.
Yesterday I found all the emphasis on praising God in church extremely difficult. For what? For the deaths in Grenfell Tower and Mosul? For the rule of the world being grabbed by narcissistic solipsists, in some cases, like Duterte, murderers, and them claiming divine support.

And I've stayed on the computer too long. I forgot I am slave to my guest.

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Penny S
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Forgot to add, at times like this I feel I shouldn't pray for anyone, anywhere, such as the thread in All Saints, since I feel that the negative response is going to get them as well.

Perhaps these two posts should be deleted?

[ 10. July 2017, 08:46: Message edited by: Penny S ]

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Martin60
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No, I need the company. Many of us here do. I prayed for a merciful death not an hour ago, prayed that I wanted one. On my 63rd birthday. How foolish. How absurd. I immediately rescinded the prayer, and struggled to express gratitude for all that I had at the moment. It's ALL nonsense. Except the gratitude. God nods back in the dark beyond the concrete. We've all been deluded and now it's time to put away childish things. And live in faith. Nothing but faith. The gift of faith. To go on in faith, encouraging one another. Without claims. Without magic. Without delusion. Whilst nurturing those that need them.

This existence is mere conception, not even gestation for the vast majority of us. Even we here with our immense privileges will lose them all if we live long enough. There are no tests, no exams, no finals; there is no development, no threshold. There is the first blip of eternal life.

Come, let us pray together.

Alleluia anyway!

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Love wins

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Brenda Clough
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Like this: Leonard Cohen singing Hallelujah.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer

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