Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Power of Prayer?

This is probably more of an insight into the strange operations of my mind than an actual exposé of a problem in the culture of faith these days but here goes:

I deeply dislike the phrase “the power of prayer.” You here it all the time.

“Don’t underestimate the power of prayer!”

“That is just another example of the power of prayer.”

“I really believe that there is a tremendous power in prayer.”

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the intended meaning behind most of this type of talk, and even that there is a way of reading some Bible verses that would support the phrase. I just think it has the potential to communicate all the wrong sorts of ideas.

The fact is that there is no more power in prayer than in any other conversation save the fact that the conversation of prayer happens to take place with the God of the universe. (Assuming that [a] your prayers are directed at God and [b] your prayers are in fact a dialogue.) The power is not in the prayer, it is entirely with God. You may think I am nitpicking here, or that I am insisting on an inordinate amount of precision. I would argue that I am not.

The difference between power in prayer and power from God is the difference between a religious, almost superstitious world view and a relationship understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Do you know which sort of Christianity you espouse?

Do you think prayers have to be worded a certain way to achieve results? Do you think prayer changes God’s plans, or your understanding of what God is planning? Do you think prayer is some sort of magic formula, and all you need is the right amount of “faith” to wield it effectively? Here is a big one: Do you think God determines His action based on the amount of people praying? If so, what is the magic number that tips the scale?

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