Friday, March 16, 2012

Prayer: A Dog Trainer’s Insight

When you get a new puppy one of the first things you have to do is train it. No one wants a dog that does its own thing, you want an obedient pet. Once you get it to not do the things that annoy, you may decide that you want it to perform some special tricks that will entertain people. Ultimately, though, all training is a process of learning how to make your wishes known to the dog, and make it want to fulfill those wishes. In some cases, like house-breaking, it can feel like the one being trained is the human. In a way that is true, because you are adjusting your life and habits nearly as much as the dog is.

All of this is a good insight into the way some people understand prayer. Some see it as little more than learning to execute an effective command. Ask for something with the right “faith” and God will give you what you want. Others, more “spiritual” and “knowing” will assure you that this is not the case. You cannot change God or cause Him to bend to your will! Instead, prayer for them is more like the dog owner who adapts to the will of the pet. In prayer we learn to ask for the things that God wants to do anyway. It may look like prayer is changing the circumstance, but it is really changing the person.

The truth is that both of these pictures are wrong. Prayer is a conversation between two people in a relationship. Sure, one of the individuals is the Creator of the universe and all-powerful and the other is a creature aiming to please. However, the important thing in prayer is the relationship. Along the way we will be changed by it, and things will happen that relate to it, but neither of those things are really the point of prayer.

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