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Source: (consider it) Thread: Why doesn't prayer work?
mr cheesy
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School assemblies are an utterly self-defeating and pointless activity.

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arse

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Sioni Sais:
quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Trin:
quote:
I've noticed that no one tells you that prayer doesn't work before hand. Occasionally one of these conversations happens and the old "ah but who is prayer really for?" line comes out...
I went on a course about stress-reduction techniques recently, and one of the pieces of advice was 'give yourself fifteen minutes every day to worry as much as you can about everything you can think of, then put all of it out of your mind and get on with the rest of your life'.

That sounds remarkably like a secular version of prayer to me.

The concept of "putting these things out of your mind" comes dangerously close to denying or trivialising their existance. This may be OK for some things but, you will only have to confront them 24 hours later. Prayer ought to enable you to park them with God, not to be picked up later.

note: I agree that "passing Him the burden" doesn't have universal acceptance amongst Christians, but the idea of "forgetting about it" isn't my idea of a mechanism for coping with stress and anxiety either.

For some of us, anxiety is a self-perpetuating mechanism. We will spend hours and hours and hours running thru the same cyle of anxious ruminating about things that we have no control over and which may or may not happen. For people like me, the advice to put some boundaries on that anxious "what if-ing" is actually extraordinarily helpful-- to set aside some time for it, and then set it aside til the next day. Suggesting that we put it away permanently is probably not an option, but limiting it to a set period so that it doesn't control and zap your energy the entire day, is.

And yes, it is very much like a secular version of prayer. I'm not from a liturgical tradition, but I can see the liturgy in particular serving this role of putting some structure around the practice of
"controlled worry", and the discipline of coming back to the same affirmation again and again and again. I heard Nadia Boltz-Weber (edgy celeb Lutheran pastor) speak the other day, and she made a similar observation that what drew her to Christianity initially was the liturgy-- that "touchstone" of coming back to this same affirmation every week.

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

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Komensky:
If your prayer is still unanswered, you should consider that it was God's plan all along that your five-year old daughter should die a painful death from bone cancer; at least she's with Jesus now—think of how happy she must be!'. This might be followed by a quote from John Piper (they love him!) about how you should 'love your cancer' because it is a gift from God. Your cancer has to be a gift from God because everything that happens is part of his plan. This is the shit you will hear over and over again. .

note to self: issue a hell-call to Piper. This sort of uber-Calvinist crap is nothing short of spiritual abuse.

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

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
School assemblies are an utterly self-defeating and pointless activity.

Not if done properly.

I led collective worship regularly for over 30 years and have written stuff for teachers about it.

Students value a time for reflection every day.

Is reflection pointless?

[ 16. October 2015, 15:00: Message edited by: leo ]

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SvitlanaV2
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Komensky

MOTR Christians pray, of course, but they don't necessarily expect prayer to work miracles. Maybe you would have done better in that kind of low key setting.

By contrast, my impression from the Ship is that evangelicals almost expect God to make them champions of the universe. (If only!) There's something curiously secular about that. It seems that as Westerners, whether religious or atheist, we see disease, pain and death as unjustly undermining our natural, scientific or God-given ability to control our environment, which includes our bodies.

Anyway, speaking for myself, my mother was desperate for us to pray for her healing when she was seriously ill this year, but she wasn't healed. She passed away instead. I couldn't understand why, but on reflection, who knows if some extra years of life would have changed her world for the better, overall? She gave so much in the life that she had, but could she have done more than offer more of the same? If not (and that was my fear) what would have been her spiritual or moral gain?

Every situation is different, of course. But even with departed children, you sometimes wonder what kind of world they would have ended up in if God had given them a longer life. Some young people reach maturity but have a terrible time doing so, with no happy ending to 'justify' the despair.

Maybe the only thing really worth praying for, apart from forgiveness, is for Jesus to come back, so we can leave this tear-stained, sin-soaked world behind.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

By contrast, my impression from the Ship is that evangelicals almost expect God to make them champions of the universe. (If only!)

[Mad]

I had hoped we'd done a better job than that of demonstrating, at least on the Ship, the diversity of evangelicalism. Apparently not.
[Mad]


otoh:

quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

Maybe the only thing really worth praying for, apart from forgiveness, is for Jesus to come back, so we can leave this tear-stained, sin-soaked world behind.

Yes. That's why we pray "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." It's why the early persecuted Christians prayed "Maranatha: come Lord Jesus come". So many many times when I see the news reports of human trafficking and child abuse and genocide, that's all I can do. Maranatha.

[ 16. October 2015, 15:16: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Not if done properly.

I led collective worship regularly for over 30 years and have written stuff for teachers about it.

Students value a time for reflection every day.

Is reflection pointless?

I think forcing a community of teenagers to do something for the possible benefit of a tiny minority is a pointless activity. I suspect that very little reflection is actually going on.

But of course, YMMV.

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arse

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

By contrast, my impression from the Ship is that evangelicals almost expect God to make them champions of the universe. (If only!)

[Mad]

I had hoped we'd done a better job than that of demonstrating, at least on the Ship, the diversity of evangelicalism. Apparently not.
[Mad]


FWIW, I think the problem is that the habit of protesting about the supposedly undesirable aspects of evangelicalism actually actually fixes those undesirable aspects in our minds. And progressive evangelicalism (if you like) always tends to be compared with the more conservative types, which similarly highlights conservatism.

A more subtle diversionary tactic is probably required. Or a change of terminology.

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Truman White
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Not if done properly.

I led collective worship regularly for over 30 years and have written stuff for teachers about it.

Students value a time for reflection every day.

Is reflection pointless?

I think forcing a community of teenagers to do something for the possible benefit of a tiny minority is a pointless activity.


Like learning how to play hockey and make scones.
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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

By contrast, my impression from the Ship is that evangelicals almost expect God to make them champions of the universe. (If only!)

[Mad]

I had hoped we'd done a better job than that of demonstrating, at least on the Ship, the diversity of evangelicalism. Apparently not.
[Mad]


FWIW, I think the problem is that the habit of protesting about the supposedly undesirable aspects of evangelicalism actually actually fixes those undesirable aspects in our minds. And progressive evangelicalism (if you like) always tends to be compared with the more conservative types, which similarly highlights conservatism.

A more subtle diversionary tactic is probably required. Or a change of terminology.

Who is the "our" you're referring to? I never envisioned you as part of the evangelical camp, whereas I self-identify as such.

I think the evangelicals on this board have been fairly good about honestly identifying and acknowledging the problems within our tradition (what I like to call the "crazy uncles" on the front porch). That's not a "diversionary tactic"-- it's an honest and authentic evaluation of our flaws-- the sort of honest self-reflection the Ship does well. Sure, that highlights the disagreeable aspects of evangelicalism, but it's not like no one was noticing them anyway. But it also demonstrates another side of evangelicalism-- one you seem determined to either ignore or dismiss as mere window dressing. I find that both insulting & frustrating as well as... hurtful. fwiw. Honestly, if you have that much disdain for me and my fellow evangelical shipmates, why not just issue a hell call? At least then we'd be free to talk about the personal aspects/implications of what you are saying.

[Mad]

[ 16. October 2015, 16:27: Message edited by: cliffdweller ]

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

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Eutychus
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hosting/

quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
why not just issue a hell call? At least then we'd be free to talk about the personal aspects/implications of what you are saying

That sounds like a good idea - for all parties concerned - if you are to avoid (further) Hostly attention on this thread.

/hosting

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Marvin the Martian

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quote:
Originally posted by Truman White:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I think forcing a community of teenagers to do something for the possible benefit of a tiny minority is a pointless activity.


Like learning how to play hockey and make scones.
Or learning most of the subjects we teach them, for that matter.

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Hail Gallaxhar

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SusanDoris

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My answers to my own questions go something like this:
Praying to God is of no benefit at all to the children, since it asks them to listen to an adult talking to something that many of them nowadays know or believe does not exist. I do not know the statistics, but not only are far more children nowadays from homes with a wide variety of religious beliefs, but there are possibly as many from homes where the idea of God/god/s simply does not arise.

I suppose it could benefit the Head teacher and Governors, if their funding depended on ( a)still obeying an old law and (b) current sources of funding, but not being a cynical person, I will say no more on that account! 

An Assembly, say, once or even twice a week – if managed well, can benefit the smooth running of the school I think, but I have been out of teaching for a long time.

With all the astronomical, scientific, technological, geographical, biological,, etc detailed knowledge available to all, why show children how to do something like saying prayers to a God?

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
hosting/

quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
why not just issue a hell call? At least then we'd be free to talk about the personal aspects/implications of what you are saying

That sounds like a good idea - for all parties concerned - if you are to avoid (further) Hostly attention on this thread.

/hosting

My apologies - I did not see this post before my latest. Would you please, therefore, delete the one I have just put in. Thank you.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

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I wish the editing time was longer!! I have now listened through most of the posts on this page and see to which the hell call one refers.

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
quote:
Originally posted by Truman White:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I think forcing a community of teenagers to do something for the possible benefit of a tiny minority is a pointless activity.


Like learning how to play hockey and make scones.
Or learning most of the subjects we teach them, for that matter.
If by hockey Truman White means "Fighting on Ice" then that and scone making are a good start.

Otherwise, I'm waiting for a Hell thread or two.

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"He isn't Doctor Who, he's The Doctor"

(Paul Sinha, BBC)

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mr cheesy
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I never learned how to make scones at school, but it would have been useful as I like to make cakes.
I never learned how to play hockey. I learned how to play rugby union, and have enjoyed playing and then watching/listening to games since.

With the possible exception of modern languages, almost everything I learned in school has been of some use since - the "lessons" learned in quasi-religious assembly have been completely useless.

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arse

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Jude
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Prayer is not a means whereby we twist God's proverbial arm, although I hsve heard many times in church when the intercessions seem to ask for this. My own interpretation of prayer is that it is a means whereby we learn to align our will with God's. My question in the OP referred to times when what we pray for surely must be God's will too, but He doesn't seem to be listening. On a grand scale, this could be when we pray for an end to war in, for exsmple, Syria. On a small, personal scale, it could be when praying for someone who is ill. BTW, the person I referred to in the OP does not suffer from a terminal illness, but rather a spiritual/mental sickness, which could however be fatal if they continue on their current downhill road.
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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Jude:
Prayer is not a means whereby we twist God's proverbial arm, although I hsve heard many times in church when the intercessions seem to ask for this. My own interpretation of prayer is that it is a means whereby we learn to align our will with God's. My question in the OP referred to times when what we pray for surely must be God's will too, but He doesn't seem to be listening. On a grand scale, this could be when we pray for an end to war in, for exsmple, Syria. On a small, personal scale, it could be when praying for someone who is ill. BTW, the person I referred to in the OP does not suffer from a terminal illness, but rather a spiritual/mental sickness, which could however be fatal if they continue on their current downhill road.

Yes, we've gotten off the very personal aspect of what you shared into more typically purgatorial theonerd responses.

Whatever it is, whatever it does, I am praying for your friend.
[Votive]

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

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SvitlanaV2
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I want to apologise for upsetting you. I don't disdain evangelicals, and should have used the qualifier 'some' in my response to Komensky's post.

The prayers of evangelical family members overseas for my dying mother were welcomed. However, the question, to my mind, is whether they should have prayed for her healing, or for something else. But healing is what she asked them to pray for, and perhaps she was wrong in that. A more progressive evangelical approach might have helped her to prepare for death rather than focusing on praying for miracles.

Moreover, Komensky's posts indicate that he's had a far, far broader relationship with evangelicalism than I do, and he's even worshipped in London, where there's choice aplenty regarding churches, but he doesn't seem to have encountered this more progressive evangelical approach regarding prayer either.

Evangelical churches of this type may well exist in Britain, but finding them would take some work. From a British POV it would be simpler to find a MOTR Methodist/CofE/URC congregation and rest assured that as a whole, its expectations about the effect of prayer are likely to be very subtle rather than dramatic, certainly in the physical sense. Unfortunately, a lot of people find these churches a bit boring. Including me. But you have to weigh up the pros and cons of the churches that are available to you.

Anyway, sorry again.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
I want to apologise for upsetting you.

thank you-- forgiven.


quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:

The prayers of evangelical family members overseas for my dying mother were welcomed. However, the question, to my mind, is whether they should have prayed for her healing, or for something else. But healing is what she asked them to pray for, and perhaps she was wrong in that. A more progressive evangelical approach might have helped her to prepare for death rather than focusing on praying for miracles.

Most progressive evangelicals (whatever that means-- it's a slippery term, of course) would probably do both. I would. As I mentioned earlier, I would pray for healing, without necessarily asking "if it's your will" because I would assume that God's desire for your mother was healing, for the reasons mentioned above. But, as I said, I don't believe that everything that happens in the world at this point is the way God wants it to be, so I wouldn't assume that we would see healing, and would attempt not to appear to be promising 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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Galloping Granny
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God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing...

How's that for a prayer?

I had it for a hymn once, sung by a soloist and then by the congregation. She sang the last line so softly that congregation followed suit. Intensely moving.

GG

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The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it. Gospel of Thomas, 113

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Galloping Granny:
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing...

How's that for a prayer?

I had it for a hymn once, sung by a soloist and then by the congregation. She sang the last line so softly that congregation followed suit. Intensely moving.

GG

I do agree - and automatically sang it in my head! It is a great pity that CofE has all the good tunes! [Big Grin]

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Anglicano
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GG [/qb][/QUOTE]I do agree - and automatically sang it in my head! It is a great pity that CofE has all the good tunes! [Big Grin] [/QB][/QUOTE]

It would be nice if we did. But some vicars seem to prefer the most frightful dirges.

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Gee D
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I have given instructions for that at my funeral.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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Gee D
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I have given instructions for that at my funeral.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Not if done properly.

I led collective worship regularly for over 30 years and have written stuff for teachers about it.

Students value a time for reflection every day.

Is reflection pointless?

I think forcing a community of teenagers to do something for the possible benefit of a tiny minority is a pointless activity. I suspect that very little reflection is actually going on.

But of course, YMMV.

Not a minority and not forced. They are 'invited' to reflect and periodical evaluation shows that they value this time.

May be you are thinking of the hymn/prayer sandwiches of yesteryear - we haven't done thse since 1974.

Have you been in a school assembly in the last year or so?

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
the "lessons" learned in quasi-religious assembly have been completely useless.

Quasi-religious assemblies are against the law/guidance - we have to 'take into account' the family backgrounds, aptitudes' etc. of the pupils - these are mainly non religious so assemblies are designed to cater for secular spirituality.

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My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
The prayers of evangelical family members overseas for my dying mother were welcomed. However, the question, to my mind, is whether they should have prayed for her healing, or for something else. But healing is what she asked them to pray for

Surely death is the greatest form of healing.

--------------------
My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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Martin60
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No, resurrection is.

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Love wins

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Gamaliel
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I also find those sort of MoTR churches boring. There's a pay-off somewhere along the line.

The downside, I've found, with the more 'exciting' evangelical outfits - and they tend to be the kind that Komensky describes - but as he says himself, they aren't the only kind of evangelical churches there are - is that they can over-promise and under-deliver.

At worst, they can promise healing and build up people's hopes only for them to be cruelly dashed when people's loved ones take a turn for the worst ...

There's a pay-off somewhere ... cognitive dissonance is not the sole property of any one Christian tradition.

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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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rolyn
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Nice one Martin.

Going a bit Gospel according to Life of Brian, it could be said death is itself a form of resurrection from being alive for what is a nanosecond in the greater scheme of things.
We come from nothing, we go back to nothing. So what have we lost ......?

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by Erroneous Monk:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
quote:
Originally posted by Erroneous Monk:
quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
Can you think of one thing in your life which can only be explained by something non-natural?


Yes: dissatisfaction.

I know of only one plausible explanation for it: You have made us for Yourself, and our souls are restless until they rest in You.

Prayer, then, is not intended to supply our wants, but to remind us that there is only one way to be entirely satisfied, and to bring us as close as possible to that satisfaction in this life.

That's pretty, but surely there are quite a lot of explanations of dissatisfaction. For example, in some areas of Buddhism, there is the idea that the ego has split itself from reality, and then yearns to return 'home'. This does not involve God.


It doesn't involve the *word* "God" but...
I think you are moving the goal-posts. You said, that there is only one plausible explanation for dissatisfaction, that is, our yearning for God.

I dispute that, and cite as an example, the idea in Buddhism that the separation and alienation caused by the ego also produces dissatisfaction. Interestingly, this is religious but not theistic.

So you say, 'but ...', implying that God might be involved. So you are saying that the ego idea is not plausible for someone who already believes in God. Well, OK, that is a bit circular.

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I can't talk to you today; I talked to two people yesterday.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
The prayers of evangelical family members overseas for my dying mother were welcomed. However, the question, to my mind, is whether they should have prayed for her healing, or for something else. But healing is what she asked them to pray for

Surely death is the greatest form of healing.
I suppose so. But for sick people and their families that's not always what they want to hear, is it?

With regard to the (British) MOTR churches I mentioned above, they are usually attended by much older people, often OAPs. These worshippers may feel less justified in asking for miracles of healing (i.e. life rather than death) than the young people and young families that congregate in more evangelical churches. Our culture finds the deaths of younger people very hard to tolerate, and I doubt that Christians in general feel much differently about this than anyone else.

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LeRoc

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quote:
Sioni Sais: The concept of "putting these things out of your mind" comes dangerously close to denying or trivialising their existance.
I don't think it's about that. To me, it is more about acknowledging your despair over a problem for a short while. The other 23:45 hours the problem will still be there, and you might still think about it, but the despair might be less.

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I know why God made the rhinoceros, it's because He couldn't see the rhinoceros, so He made the rhinoceros to be able to see it. (Clarice Lispector)

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rolyn
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
......the idea in Buddhism that the separation and alienation caused by the ego also produces dissatisfaction. Interestingly, this is religious but not theistic.

I like the parallels that are being drawn here with Buddhism. Also important to note that Buddhist practice also isn't without it's pitfalls. I do sometimes wonder though if Buddhism turns out quite some many dissatisfied, yearning and depressed people as Christian practice unfortunately seems apt to do .

TMM Le Roc is on it by talking of Christian prayer easing despair, maybe even turning it to joy. But certainly not compounding it otherwise what is the point in prayer?

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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Ariel
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
I do sometimes wonder though if Buddhism turns out quite some many dissatisfied, yearning and depressed people as Christian practice unfortunately seems apt to do.

Christianity is full of images of pain and suffering, and pervaded by the themes of renunciation and sacrifice. Walk into any church and there'll probably be multiple images of a tortured man dying a horrible death, and/or martyrs. Pop into Kamakura in Japan, and there's a huge statue of a laughing Buddha, replicated on smaller scales throughout the Far East. When did you last see a picture of Jesus or the saints laughing?
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Lyda*Rose

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Hmmm. In Buddhist Bhutan, some say that the country's Gross National Happiness -high- is due in part to the philosophy of thinking of death five times a day.

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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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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
No, resurrection is.

Death is the gateway to resurrection and so is the instrument of healing.

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My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by rolyn:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
......the idea in Buddhism that the separation and alienation caused by the ego also produces dissatisfaction. Interestingly, this is religious but not theistic.

I like the parallels that are being drawn here with Buddhism. Also important to note that Buddhist practice also isn't without it's pitfalls. I do sometimes wonder though if Buddhism turns out quite some many dissatisfied, yearning and depressed people as Christian practice unfortunately seems apt to do .

TMM Le Roc is on it by talking of Christian prayer easing despair, maybe even turning it to joy. But certainly not compounding it otherwise what is the point in prayer?

Another point to make is that Buddhism has many strands. You could even say that some Buddhists pray, although it might be more accurate to speak of devotional practice. But I think some regional Buddhist traditions honour local gods and so on.

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I can't talk to you today; I talked to two people yesterday.

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Raptor Eye
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I see a picture of Jesus and the saints smiling every time I see the cross - the one without a body nailed to it, the one that represents the risen and living Christ.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Ikkyu
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyda*Rose:
Hmmm. In Buddhist Bhutan, some say that the country's Gross National Happiness -high- is due in part to the philosophy of thinking of death five times a day.

Not just death:

The five daily recollections

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Martin60
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mr cheesy, thanks for that poignant eyewitness snapshot of the ABC. My flinty hearted response BEFORE this is reinforced by it. JW is a nice, privileged chap who nicely embodies two nasty things common to Christians which I certainly nastily embodied: he's a de jure and therefore de facto homophobic warmonger.

No wonder he's pained. The cognitive dissonance must be gnawing at his vitals. Prayer isn't the only thing that doesn't work as evangelicals let alone charismatics claim. Or may be it IS working and JW is having a Damascene moment.

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Love wins

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rolyn
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quote:
Originally posted by Ariel:
Christianity is full of images of pain and suffering, and pervaded by the themes of renunciation and sacrifice. Walk into any church and there'll probably be multiple images of a tortured man dying a horrible death, and/or martyrs. Pop into Kamakura in Japan, and there's a huge statue of a laughing Buddha, replicated on smaller scales throughout the Far East. When did you last see a picture of Jesus or the saints laughing?

This probably has a good deal to do with it.
Before the days of painkillers etc.,a time when contagious disease or famine was ever-present, Christianity,with deliverance from sufferings as it's main message, did serve a purpose and no doubt struck a chord with the everyday struggles of life for people then.

This is hardly the case now with modern Western living. That isn't to say there aren't still problems, but the suffering is less graphic. When I'm Church and the prayers turn to suffering people in far off parts of the World, you can almost hear audible sighs from the congregation. It's as if we can't relate to suffering on that scale, and the idea that a few muted words will making the slightest difference to such a plight can feel nonsensical.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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SvitlanaV2
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At the moment I'm reading a book by John Stott, in which he says that 'the Christian knows that the nearer he approaches God, the more he becomes aware of his sin' and 'the more the saint grows in likeness to Christ, the more he perceives the vastness of the distance which still separates him from his ideal.'

He implies that the yearning and dissatisfaction are routine and not undesirable parts of the developing Christian life. But in contemporary spirituality, the impression one gets is that such feelings drive many people away from the faith. Ex-RCs apparently have to train themselves to sin without feeling guilty about it.

Maybe it's because in our culture feeling guilty for one's choices and behavior is a total no no. Religion, if it has a role, is to make us feel better, not worse! I've heard of commentators who imply that much of American Christianity in particular has more or less become a branch of the self-help movement, in which feeling good, not bad, about yourself if the goal.

I don't know if other religions experience this kind of tension. Psalm 14:3 says that noone is righteous, but do Jews read this as applying to all mankind at all times? Islam has its restless youth, as we know, but this seems more like a demographic and political issue than a theological one.

I understand that Muslims have a fatalistic component to their faith which presumably makes them less susceptible to spiritual disappointment than Christians are. And I also wonder if a degree of compulsion in Islamic religious practice provides the sort of comforting framework that Christianity ultimately lacks. Christianity is a religion where the importance of almost every ritual and doctrine appears to be up for debate. This has its advantages, but it must make the spiritual aspect very vulnerable, because when God appears to be silent, what other certainties does the much divided church offer to carry us through?

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
At the moment I'm reading a book by John Stott, in which he says that 'the Christian knows that the nearer he approaches God, the more he becomes aware of his sin' and 'the more the saint grows in likeness to Christ, the more he perceives the vastness of the distance which still separates him from his ideal.'

He implies that the yearning and dissatisfaction are routine and not undesirable parts of the developing Christian life. But in contemporary spirituality, the impression one gets is that such feelings drive many people away from the faith. Ex-RCs apparently have to train themselves to sin without feeling guilty about it.

Maybe it's because in our culture feeling guilty for one's choices and behavior is a total no no. Religion, if it has a role, is to make us feel better, not worse! I've heard of commentators who imply that much of American Christianity in particular has more or less become a branch of the self-help movement, in which feeling good, not bad, about yourself if the goal.


There's some real good stuff in this.

Stott is right, and that self-knowledge can sometimes team up with ordinary neuroticism to make you miserable. Me, at least, certainly in my teens. It took years to get to Luther's position of "Sin boldly, but trust and rejoice in Christ even more boldly." Now I'm watching my son go through it.

I think sometimes it must drive God crazy to watch some of us obsessing over guilt when he's already decisively taken care of the matter. And yet it's so hard to stop. Even though you might know intellectually that it's a waste of time.

I'm glad I'm finally ancient enough (so saith my son!) to be mostly able to accept that I am a magnificent ruin. There is no chance of me fooling anybody into thinking I have it all together. Three minutes in my company would clue anybody in. But I mostly don't beat myself up about it anymore either, like I used to. At this point I figure God's seen it all (like with OBGYNs) and it's not going to shock him. And there's a lot of really cool stuff left in the ruin, and it's slowly being reconstructed. Someday it'll be a cathedral again.

Meantime I have to get on with it...

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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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Jamat
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
At the moment I'm reading a book by John Stott, in which he says that 'the Christian knows that the nearer he approaches God, the more he becomes aware of his sin' and 'the more the saint grows in likeness to Christ, the more he perceives the vastness of the distance which still separates him from his ideal.'
M

After reading your comment I wonder if Stott seems to touch on a dimension called 'plug in'. Prayer is a telephone or call up device?

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Jamat ..in utmost longditude, where Heaven
with Earth and ocean meets, the setting sun slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern gate of Paradise. (Milton Paradise Lost Bk iv)

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Martin60
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He never returns the call except in tgat we do from our existential depths.

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Love wins

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rolyn
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Good posts above SvitV2 and LC .

It did occur to me that one does,nt have to go too far into the Psalms to understand the 'upper and downer' factor of religious practice.
And yes, it does also makes a practitioner highly sin aware. It,s not difficult see why it produces slipped halos for many. Which in turn leaves the secular world vindicated in it's decision to have no truck with religion.

Since becoming involved in Christian worship I've often been bombarded internally with a 100 good reasons to dump it. Yet something remains, and in a minute I will go to church to pray.

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Change is the only certainty of existence

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Moo

Ship's tough old bird
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Sometimes, when I'm really down, I pray, "Lord, I'm a mess, but I'm your mess."

Moo

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Kerygmania host
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See you later, alligator.

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