Perspective

Thoughts of a Catholic convert

My Photo
Name:
Location: United States

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Andrew Brown and Rowan Williams on petitionary prayer



Saw this by Andrew Brown on petitionary prayer ....

[...] The second question is whether prayer works on the pray-er as a form of pain relief. It obviously sometimes does and I can't imagine any remotely plausible way to run a controlled trial of these effects. Now, my Christian friends would object at this point that the point of prayer is not "pain relief" and that prayer does not deliver from anguish. I don't think it does. But it makes life capable of being borne, and that is sometimes the only possible step forward.

Nor, in the accounts I have, do people pray for the pain to stop. They pray not to be alone and abandoned within it. As Rowan Williams put it in his Times interview: "The point of praying is to open yourself up to God so God can do what he wants with you. You come with empty hands, as silent as you can be and say, 'Over to you'. So you could say the function was to make you the person God wants you to be – in the full awareness that that might not be quite the person you think you want to be."

This invites the obvious response from the Onion: "God answers prayers of paralysed little boy: 'No' says God." But I still think Williams is talking about something else here. And I will still light candles for my friends when I visit a cathedral, not because I think it will do any good, but because sometimes a futile gesture is the only kind you can make.


I have to disagree with the ABC when he says .... "The point of praying is to open yourself up to God so God can do what he wants with you. You come with empty hands, as silent as you can be and say, 'Over to you'. So you could say the function was to make you the person God wants you to be – in the full awareness that that might not be quite the person you think you want to be."

That doesn't describe my petitionary prayers at all :) Doubtless I'm less spiritually evolved than the Archbishop of Canterbury but I really try, even if it embarrasses me, to ask God for what I actually want - if you can't be transparent with someone who's omniscient (and someone who loves you) who can you be that with? And if it's all about "your will not mine" why make a petitionary prayer in the first place?

I like what Eugene McCarraher said Herbert McCabe said about petitionary prayer ... McCabe’s advice is to just go ahead and ask for what you really want—a good grade, money for the mortgage, Grandmom getting better, not drowning. You’re not fooling God by praying for things you don’t really desire but rather think you should desire. Maybe you should pray for those things—the Holy Spirit will lead you there eventually—but if you can’t even pray for the things you do want, how are you ever going to pray for the things you should want?


2 Comments:

Blogger Liam said...

I always look on petitionary prayer as logical -- it's a situation of hope meets faith. That doesn't mean it's going to happen and why some prayers are answered and others aren't is usually, as in many cases, a mystery. But to whom are we to express hope if not to God?

I'm in a very hopeful mood these days.

8:44 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Liam,

I like your explanation - not surprised you're hopeful :)

9:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home