Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Over My Head

I have a habit of getting in over my head, of over-commitment and under-resourcing, of squeezing too much from too little. In that spirit, I’ve been trying lately to wrap my finite intellect, which wheezes and huffs with the effort, around the efficacy of prayer. I have not been searching for a yea or nay – that particular question has been for some time resolved for me in the affirmative – but I have been searching for a glimpse, if it may be had, of the mechanics of that efficacy.

Suppose that I and many other people pray for improbable outcome X, and it comes to pass. Would it still have been granted if I alone of all that crowd had kept silent? Is any prayer ever the pebble that tips the scale? Or are the prayers of God’s people inseparable before Him, like drops of water in a river? And wherein lies the undeniable but inexplicable charm of a fallen race to move the hand of an immutable Divine?

I have no answers to these questions. I have read Spurgeon and Willard, Lewis and Tozer, Carmichael and Chesterton on the subject. From them I have gotten signposts, and not the desired schematics, truths that only deepen the mystery.

Scripture does not seem overly concerned that I understand the process. I am told not how prayer works, but “This, then, is how you should pray.”

If all the roads in this province of thought lead to befuddlement (and so far, for me, they do), then I seem to have three options: 1) I can, distrusting what I do not understand, cease to pray. But my very spirit recoils at the thought . . . 2) I can continue to pray out of habit, or grim-faced compliance, but with secret mistrust that my prayers make any difference. But no sane or honest person would waste time in this fashion . . . 3) I can, in obedience, go on praying, because I know on instinct that the Maker is far more important than the mechanism. And the Maker that I know would not tell me to ask, would not tell me to seek, would not tell me to knock, only to let it be a lie told for the comfort of infants.


Anonymous said...

In case you're looking for more 'sign post' books on the topic, "Prayer" by Ole Hallesby was recently recommended to me. -If you wait long enough it will probably find its way into our apartment in any case.

David Quinn said...

I always appreciate your writing and i check your posts often.

A few signposts that have helped me out along the way have been "The Complete Works on Prayer" by E.M. Bounds and "With Christ in the School of Prayer" by Andrew Murray.

John (The Cautiously Outspoken Semi-Anonymous Timber Embracer) said...

Does the Church really think prayer works? If so, wouldn't the Church be praying more and using it less as a piously correct segway to what it often seems to believe "really, really" works (donations, volunteer time, magnetic pastors, etc.). Ah, but misapplication by the imperfectly faithful should not be a cause for all-consuming cynicism. So, pray without ceasing and trust that a multi-dimensional God can understand what we bounded by space and time cannot.

Dwight said...

I would be lost...if I could not speak to my Wonderful Lord...and listen as He speaks to me...

Anonymous said...

Lloyd Ogilvie tells us that it is God who puts the impulse on our hearts to pray.

When we submit to that impulse and surrender our own ego, we become God's partner. So prayer is both a gift and a sacred relationship.