Why do Christians pray? (Part 1)

Christians struggle to pray. Or at least, that’s what I hear. Church attenders, my students, and pastors all express to me their dissatisfaction with how they pray. They’ve heard that they should pray. They want to pray. But they tell me that they don’t pray enough, that they’re not sure how to pray, or that they have some other frustration with their prayers. I hear people express guilt that they pray too little, or that they don’t pray the way they’ve been taught to pray.

There’s something wrong with this picture. Continue reading

Prayer: who answers whom?

Many Christians say that they pray because God answers prayer. In prayer meetings and home groups, I’ve heard people tell each other their ‘prayer requests,’ which are then addressed to God for God to answer. I was once part of a group that kept a weekly prayer list with two columns. In one column, the prayer requests were recorded, one request per line. The lines in the second column were kept blank until Continue reading

Feelings and Prayer

“What are you feeling?” As the other participants in the assertiveness training seminar answered the facilitator’s question, I was at a loss as to what to say. When my turn finally came, I said, “I’m feeling a sense of questioning about this seminar.” The teacher responded, “Andrew, questioning is not a feeling. What are you feeling?”  Her response stung. I was unable to answer her question. Continue reading

Old Testament Praying

Which prayer is best: spontaneous prayer or prepared prayer? Which prayer is most effective: the deeply-felt utterance, sent like an arrow directly from the heart? Or a carefully prepared, thought-filled, written prayer? Which is more meaningful?

I feel the tension between these polarized perspectives when I listen to Christians around me. In a previous blog, I suggested that prayer is primarily a matter of showing up—that’s all. Whereas Eugene Peterson argues persuasively that the bedrock of praying is praying the Psalms through every month (p. 105 in Under the Unpredictable Plant). A person recently told me, “I’m petrified to pray extemporaneously. I only pray when Continue reading

Aging…Me Too!

When I lived in BC, my work took me into circles of historians, archivists, and like-minded folks—most of whom were older than I was. I learned that some members of a local historical society were lamenting, “How can we get younger people interested in history? If  we  don’t, our work will be for naught.” But a wise friend whom I’ve known since we were children told me how he responds to such laments: “When those younger people get older, Continue reading