Sunday, 7 June 2009

The (Lack of) Facts on ACTS

Standard Sunday School Curriculum - the prayer acronym:
ACTS - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication (and Intercession)

I have to start this with a disclaimer. I fully believe in the existence and personal nature of God and Christ. I wish to be the best person that I can be, living under God's grace and guidance. But that being said, I'm sorry to say that I've never understood the point of prayer. Some people I know are considered great prayer warriors, and I admire that, but I doubt I'll ever be one, because I still don't know what it's for. And I barely know what it is.

Prayer is talking to God. Ok - I've got that much. But if it's a memorized limerick, like the graces often said before meals, is that really prayer? How much do you have to "feel" it before you're actually praying? The old adage of "talking to the ceiling" really does ring true a lot of the time for me. And how much content does prayer have to hold? Can I just "feel" something that I want to share with God? Is that prayer? There's less chance I can make a dumb or selfish statement if I only let God know how I feel, and not what I think He should do about the matter, but then that's not really "talking".

And as for the point? God already knows everything I have to say. I understand that God may still like me to confess to Him, but God knows my heart and intentions. Why is the lip service of an official "here's what I did wrong and I apologize" report to God necessary? Intercessory prayer is even more mystifying. Just because I pray for something doesn't mean it's going to happen. God isn't a vending machine. So, ok, it's akin to asking for something like I'd ask my mom or dad? But how then are we supposed to pray and claim healing for someone if we don't know the answer? And why bother to pray for God's will? God's will is going to happen whether I pray for it or not. Claiming promises is a different matter, I think - needing to ask for the fulfillment of promises makes a little more sense, though I wonder whether God wouldn't fulfill His promises despite my lack of communication.

The adoration and thanksgiving parts of prayer I think I understand in a way, but they are acts of worship, and their focus is to bring glory to God, not to help us. What of all the rest of it?

As far as intercessory and confessional prayer goes, the only points I see are practical. They help me get my thoughts in order and my head on straight. And sometimes I can convince myself it's actually a conversation, because a little voice in my head starts chiding me for thinking this way or for doing that, or encourages me there. Is that prayer, even if I've only vaguely invited God to listen in? It certainly wouldn't even be possible to pray these out loud, which would seem to make public prayer impossible.

If prayer is aimed at building a relationship between a person and God, can I just ditch the parts I don't see the point to? It confuses me more than strengthens the relationship... Yet Jesus did demonstrate to us how to pray....


Also, are blessings prayer?

I think I'm supposed to know this stuff by my age.

“Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.” Terry Pratchett


art said...

This is deep theology. I would not disagree with you that many of the things we call "Prayer" is not really talking to God. The poems we recite at mealtime and the rhymes children say at bedtime I doubt really count as "prayer". On the other hand, if God hears everything we say, then in a sense everything we say including the rhymes are prayers.

People write books on the topic of prayer and many don't agree with each other. Basic questions like "Is prayer one way or two way communication?" can even be controversial. Is it better to pray when there are two or three gathered, or is the private prayer of a righteous man more effective?

The thing that bugs me are those that say that God answers prayer in three ways: Yes, No, or Wait and 'Wait' is code for 'no response'. I don't think God is binary and I don't think we can equate 'no response' as an actual response. If there is no response, I think the proper thinking would be that we are not asking correctly or listening correctly and assume that something is wrong. If something is wrong, we should aim to rectify the problem somehow.

I think unless we hear God speaking back to us, the prayers that we pray are going to be difficult for us.

CavDawg said...

I think it's more impressive that you realize you DON'T know these things at your age. I wonder about anyone who claims to have the clamp down on exactly how God works and why.

I was actually just having this conversation with a friend not too long ago. You will often hear testimonies given by Christians talking about how they prayed for their uncle (or whoever) to recover from an illness, and sure enough, he did.

Now, I don't doubt these people's testimonies, because I believe that God does answer and care about our prayers. But what about the people who pray for their sick uncle who then dies?

We believe and understand that everything happens within God's will, and yet He commands us to pray.

I don't know the answer, but my friend and I decided that this is God's way of letting us be more involved in the salvation process. He doesn't want us idly standing on the sidelines doing nothing while miracles happen, but rather He teaches us to be involved, proactive, and to maintain a close relationship with him.

In the Bible Dictionary of the LDS edition of the scriptures it says "Prayer is the process by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are made one." Prayer reminds us of our dependence on God and His love for us.

There's my two cents.

Sandra said...

Prayer, indeed, is a mystery. Yet we are told to do it, so we should.