Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Own Personal Jesus

This is a response to a recent comment on my previous post concerning bad practices in prayer.

Publia, my sister in Christ, let me first state that I do not in any way, intend to judge you or your faith and I am not accusing you of being insincere in the least. However, for the sake of others reading and possibly your own if you're still reading, I feel compelled to take issue with what I feel are serious problems in your response. (Not that I am an authority)

I don't agree. We are commanded to "pray without ceasing" and given the Lord's Prayer. Beyond that it should not matter. As we are freed from the law, we should also be freed from laws surrounding prayer. Just pray, in the way you feel best, and I am sure God will find that pleasing.
This mindset illustrates the painful realities of what the Reformation has led to..

Oh what a holy tradition has been torn, since Martin Luther conspired to reform...

Ok so I'm not a poet; but hey I crack myself up. Seriously, this stems from a grave misunderstanding of who Jesus was. I quote Anglican scholar (one of the most respected scholars in the world) N. T. Wright a few posts ago:
"One well-worn traditional Christian position is to say that the Jewish background is a mass of legalism and formalism, and that Jesus came to teach a different sort of religion, namely, an interior spiritual sort. This is clearly no good."
First it is important to understand that Jesus didn't come to destroy the "Law" but to fulfill it as He Himself said. Secondly, the notion (which today many millions hold to in word and many more millions hold to in deed) that Jesus came to contradict the "mean ole' Pharisees" and usher in the new age of enlightened spirituality which found its truth in our inner feelings is absolutely ludicrous. Yet this is what many believe (at least in practice as we see here). When Christ speaks of the heart, He is not speaking about emotions.

We are not dead to the "Law" in the sense that we may sin or disobey without consequence. Sin is serious business. We are dead to the Law in that it no longer holds condemnation over us. When Paul wrote that he died through the law in order to be alive to Christ.. did he mean that in order to be alive to Christ we are free to disobey Him? The rich man asked how to be saved Christ said follow the Law. Later Christ said in addition to that go and sell all that you have and give to the poor.

We do have other commands from Christ concerning prayer. Thats where I got two of my points. Christ said dont pray for a show, and dont use vain repetitions. I restated both of those in different words but you disagreed because they didnt feel right to you.

That is why we have the Scripture, the Church and the Magisterium (so we dont have to rely on our feelings to know truth). "There is a way which seemeth right to a man but the ends thereof are death".

Now with all that said, lest I come across too harsh and self indulgent (too late I know), I am not saying that sinful prayers arent honored. Many people do these things I listed in my post out of no malicious intent but are literally too stupid to realize their own selfish ambitions (not talking about you Publia I dont know you and how you pray just speaking of people I've met).

Christ did not fail to accommodate for mankind's blissful stupidity though - which brings us to some other rules Christ gave us for prayer. He said go to the closet and lock the door when you pray. That way you dont have to worry about whether youre doing it for others or not.

These are not the only laws Christ gave us, but Christ and the apostles did give us several rules for praying. The Church has also laid guidelines. Before I spoke just out of common sense and things that I felt obvious - (praying a sermon to others is not going to be honored by God) so I dont see how you can take issue with what I said.

Sure prayer circles can be great for some people I am not saying that they are invalid or necessarily bad. I just dont like them and I feel like they're often abused for selfish reasons at the expense of others present.

Publia if you're reading - hope my response made sense and didnt seem condescending. I hope you understand where I'm coming from. Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to clarify if I didnt represent your views accurately.


NotMyOpinion30 said...

For reference purposes only:

"And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard. Be not you therefore like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him. (St. Matt. 6:5-8)"

Pray constantly. A good prayer to say constantly throughout the day is the Jesus prayer.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of [the Living] God, have mercy on me, a sinner"

There is no need to elaborate, Our Father knows what we are going to ask for before we ask.

NotMyOpinion30 said...

I just want to add one thing. As a Protestant, I didn't know any better than to pray in some of the variations that you listed in your last post. Though I admit that I was uncomfortable, I didn't pray in that fashion in order to quench my own vanity. I seriously didn't know how to pray beyond, "Dear God...".

The other flaw in my prayer life was, since I was taught repeatedly that Christ died for my sins past, present, and future, there was no need to stress asking forgiveness for them... since, in the mind of the Bible camp Protestants, that would be redundant. So, the only thing left to ask for were temporal things. And, since my soul was already bound for heaven, the only thing left to be thankful for were temporal things as well. Still, to this day, the prayers of my family members, when we are together, sound like this:

"Heavenly Father. Thank you for bringing us all here together. Thank you for bringing [enter name here] home safely. Thank you for giving the new job to [enter name here]. We ask that you help [name] with their schoolwork and help [name] with their financial troubles. We pray that [name] gets the house that they want. In Jesus' Name. Amen."

Once again, that is how we were taught. I always felt guilty about asking for those things but I didn't know how else to pray. No one knew any differently. It's so wonderful to actually pray for spiritual gifts primarily and to ask for forgiveness of sins. God will take care of the temporal things if we just concentrate on our souls. I'm glad that I am not told that it is unnessary to examine my conscience now. In fact, in the Catholic Church, it is of utmost importance. That desire and that recognition of our sin is how we know God is working on us. We need to worry when we stop recognizing it. I sincerely want to avoid sin, though I fall as soon as I'm done praying. But, examining one's conscience constantly and asking for the grace of the awareness of sin is wonderful.

Anyhow, I'm ranting now. My point is, not all Protestants pray in that fashion out of vanity. If Catholics pray in that fashion then that should raise some eyebrows. In that case it may be bad catechesis, vanity, or an attachment to their Protestant past if they are converts.

For some reason, my church also avoided praying the Our Father. Though they never said so expressly, I thought it was because they believed it was too Catholic. Mainly because of their other positions on the Catholic Church.

The other thing I love about the Catholic prayer life is rope prayers like the Rosary or the Divine Mercy. Those said in groups are powerful and are difficult to do with vanity in mind. They are wonderful prayers. Focusing on the Mysteries of the Gospels is wonderful.

Dave Gudeman said...

I think you are really reaching to blame "feelings" Christianity on Martin Luther. First of all, very similar beliefs occur already in the First Century. Second, it occurs in the Catholic church today. And third, many churches of the reformation would rigorously oppose the two things you are complaining about. I know that the two main churches I attended both would tell you that you cannot rely on your feelings for sound doctrine and that you certainly should confess your sins to God and ask for forgiveness.

TheGodFearinFiddler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Oops - typo.

I know it is not a Protestant only phenomenon. You're absolutely right that this thing happens in the Catholic Church as well; just not nearly as much and never in any valid liturgy. The reason is because of the safe guards the Church has in place to avoid these things.

But I quoted a Protestant scholar (respected in all of Christianity; Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox) to show that its not just a Catholic doctrine against sentimentalism but also condemned by Protestants.