Over the summer I struggled quite a bit with prayer before delivering a sermon on the topic. After preaching the sermon I arrived at a narrow conclusion that prayer could not cause God to violate the laws of nature to bring about a result we prefer. That’s a narrow conclusion because there are many, many other ways that prayer can work. My father is struggling with cancer and my praying for him reminds me to keep in touch with him, causes me to be alert for other ways I can help him, causes me to talk to others about the same, and prepares me for his death. There are dozens of other ways that practicing the spiritual discipline that is prayer can be good for me and good for Dad.
This weekend I finished a book my pastor gave me titled, Unbinding the Gospel, by Martha Grace Reese. The book has some alarming statistics for mainline churches that perhaps I’ll share later. It also has lots of practical advice for getting the message of mainline churches out to the world. So, she had my attention.
According to Reese, prayer is a crucial part of what churches that do it right do. I admit initially pulling back from this. Years ago, I explored the Prayer of Jabez movement [the prayer is here], and ultimately found it too much for me. I have viewed The Secret with suspicion.
But, then I remembered how carefully Chalice approached the issue of evangelizing. Many of us explored our distaste for evangelism. We shared stories, and we prayed. It gave us more direction in our evangelism. It has kept us focused on spreading the Good News we found at Chalice to others.
Question: Is there more involved than reflecting, that is using our minds to think about our task, when we pray? I stand by my conclusion that God does not violate natural law at our request, but I wonder if there is something more than a pep talk but less than casting a magic spell going on when we pray for the Church.