Monday, October 17, 2011

Discipline or Desperation?

I recently listened to an interview with Paul Miller called the Doctrine of Prayer.  His position on prayer is that prayer should increasingly come from a point of desperation rather than discipline.

He clarifies what he means by desperation: “it is an increasing acknowledgement that we cannot do this life alone.”  But he doesn’t really say what he means by discipline.  I assume he’s talking about some denominational practices of using prayer books and rhythmic prayer.

I can’t disagree with the need to pray in our moments of desperation, but I don’t think God intended us to be in desperation so that we would pray.  When you read about some of the most powerful examples of prayerful people in the Bible, they didn’t always pray in desperation.  There were four other reasons for prayer that I can think of right off the top of my head:  praise, friendship, discipline, and kinship. 

Here’s some scriptural evidence for these reasons for prayer:

David prayed in praise:  “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Psalm 34:1)

Moses prayed in friendship: “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

Daniel prayed with discipline: “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.” (Daniel 6:10)

Jesus prayed in kinship: “Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father . . .’” (John 17:1)

God refers to Himself in a lot of earthly paradigms so that we can understand our relationship with Him: Lord, Friend, Father, Bridegroom.  Think of these relationships with people in your life.  Do you only talk to your boss, your friends, your family, or your spouse when you’re in trouble?  Do you set aside time for them?  Do you have topics that you like to talk about with them?  Do your conversations tend to repeat themselves?  These are signs of comfortable relationship.

Another paradigm God reveals Himself in is savior, and when we’re desperate, He should be the only one we turn to, but talking to Him includes so much more than salvation, just as it does with anyone that we have relationship with. 

Prayer is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Prayer entails conversing with God about every topic.  Prayer includes involving God in the rhythms of your life at every level.   

Pray without ceasing.  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)


Michelle DeRusha@Graceful said...

I agree wholeheartedly, Stephen. In my childhood religion I practiced a lot of rote prayer, but I didn't feel a connection with God or experience real relationship with him. As I get older, I try to converse with God more frequently throughout the day. This doesn't come naturally to me, but I am getting better at it. I suspect this more fluid relationship with God will build a stronger foundation for those times that I do need to pray to him in desperation.

Brandee Shafer said...

Oh, I agree. God's Word instructs us to pray without ceasing, and Lord help us if we're desperate every second of every day. I think you're onto something when you talk about praying the same words over and over. I recognize my children's disconnect over our dinnertime, prayer, sometimes; it's probably time to shake things up. I think the point of prayer is relationship: dependence, yes, but relationship even moreso. Because --in the course of our praying--we should hear God speaking back (in His wordless sort of way).

Stephen Phillip Porter said...


My post scheduled for tomorrow is all about dinner prayers.

Dave Lord said...

Thanks for the biblical exhortations...I want to be a Daniel. And a Moses. And an Abraham.

JT said...

I enjoy your comments about prayer. Knowing that you are talking with God is one of the keys to prayer.


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