Useless Prayers

Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. – Luke 24:15-16

In healthy relationships, there is a gradual increase of mutual knowledge and trust, a growing awareness of the other’s wishes, feelings and motivations in an atmosphere of caring and empathy. Do our prayers reflect these?

Walk-with-the-Lord

The Journey to Emmaus, Gustave Dore

A non-relational approach to prayer might go like this: We pray, and God either does or does not grant our request. Even a request that we desperately desire may be rejected, without explanation. Maybe this is because if it does not conform to God’s plan which we are not privileged to know.This approach to prayer has neither open two-way communication nor a gradual increase of understanding.

This is sad, given God’s desire to relate to humankind. God walked with Adam in the garden. God conversed with Abraham (Genesis 18:22-33) and Moses (Exodus 3-4). God literally lived among his people – in the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 29:45) and in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14).

How can we make prayer more of a conversation? For a more substantive answer, I refer you to Ignatius Loyola, whose writings on conversational prayer have influenced thousands.

For a short answer, I suggest taking the revolutionary step and stop talking. Sit in silence, clear your mind of all thoughts and expectations of what prayer should be like, and listen.

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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