what do we hope to accomplish when we pray? our pastor suggested in her sermon yesterday that God desires our prayers because God wants to establish a relationship with us, just as a parent might not give something to a child until the child asks. perhaps she's right. it seems to me that prayer doesn't cause God to change, but rather prayer changes the one who prays. when we pray to be spared from a hurricane, does that mean that we won't prepare for the destruction a hurricane brings? would we ask for deliverance from the hurricane and then sit in our homes assuming that God will direct the hurricane elsewhere, or would we realize that our best hope is to make whatever preparations we can to protect our property and remove ourselves from the path of the storm?
how often have many of us misplaced some precious object and prayed that we would find it, only to discover it after we've prayed? i can't believe that we received some message from God that directed us to the lost object. instead, our prayer triggered a memory in our subconscious that reminded us where to look. as i've written before, i have serious doubts about the efficacy of intercessory prayer and tend to believe that such attempts to manipulate God border on blasphemy. so should we pray at all, and, if we do, what should our prayer be?
i think prayers of gratitude are the most important prayers we can make: gratitude for God as a presence that supports, encourages, comforts, and cares for us, gratitude for God as the creator of all things and the source of all good, gratitude for life itself, gratitude for the gifts of reasonable minds and the resources to solve our problems. i think it's appropriate to express our anguish and pain in the face of the trials of life, not because God will remove that suffering, but because in doing so we acknowledge God's presence and we accept that our suffering is a natural response to events in our lives rather than a weakness to be suppressed. i think it's ok to confess our failings when we pray, not to seek forgiveness for them, but to express our humanity and to enable us to move beyond them through giving voice to them when we can share them with no other person.
so, i continue to pray, but most often i pray that i will be changed rather than asking God to change things for my benefit. most of my posts end with a series of prayers: may i take responsibility for the way in which i live my life. may i look to my own potential to solve my problems, even if i ask God for wisdom and strength to find the solutions. may i be grateful for all that i am and have, for the gift of life itself. may i be a better person today than i was yesterday, and, if i'm not, may i forgive myself and figure out what i need to do to be a better person. may we all live lives of gratitude, kindness, and compassion. shalom.