What Is The Purpose of Prayer? Pt.1

I feel like one of the most responsible things that I can talk about for all generations (especially my own) is prayer. My generation has its own belief system rooted in deism. America itself was not rooted in Christianity (most of the founding fathers were deists). So, while most people believe in God, they believe in the God “out there.” Many people have a disconnected relationship with God. We can see this in our very language. Growing up Evangelical, I was raised to talk about and leading others to “have a relationship with God.” I have a relationship with my Mom. I am a relationship with God. God, who as Paul Tillich says is, “the ground of my being.” I can only have a relationship with something that is out there. I am what is inside of me. We are not the God out there, but who we truly are is the “Christ who lives in me.”

Prayer serves many functions; but I don’t think many people experience themselves as connected to God through it because they’re praying to the God “out there.” So much of our time in prayer is trying to control God into what we want him to do. Which is why my generation finds God to be a God who is a “therapeutic-deist.” My generation believes God is someone who exists for our sake. As long as we are essentially good people, then God will fix my problems. This is not a healthy reality for prayer. This view of prayer holds that we are in control and it’s God’s job to conform to me and my desires. In prayer we find the God who is the creator and source of my life. When we realize that I am not me, but I am Christ who lives in me, then we can find that we are our relationships with God. In this way, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.

Why would we pray to a God who is disconnected from us? Who would I even be praying to?

Let’s begin this year in prayer and discover why we should pray. Richard Rohr calls prayer our “built in therapy.” Prayer has the ability to change every aspect of our living lives.

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4 thoughts on “What Is The Purpose of Prayer? Pt.1

  1. Scott Boren says:

    We are consumers all the way through and we try to consume God, turning him into a producer of the Good Life Now. Unless we encounter God and hear his call, just as Abram, Moses, Jacob (who became Israel after the encounter), Simon (who became Peter after the encounter), Saul (who became Paul). The Bible is full of people who treat God as a commodity and who are converted to encounter God via relationship.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Love that Scott. I like how in God’s work of our life, he will cal us into a new vocation that is rooted, often in our own brokenness. God heals our brokenness through the action which broke us. Paul killed Christians only to be persecuted as one. Peter threatened violence on people who threatened Jesus, only to be martyred as one. Moses resisted God’s call out of fear, only to lead them on the most important journey of his people.

  2. Eric says:

    I heard a sermon once where the preacher talked about how there’s only 4 prayers we ever offer. “Gimme. Thanks. Oops. Wow.” I think each of these can work with thinking of God as the ground of our being. Almost like you’re sharing something with your shadow in a way. Might be a bad example, haven’t thought it completely through yet. But for me, at it’s best, prayer is a way of verbalizing what’s going on in my head as a way of trying to elevate my consciousness. Does that make sense? By paying attention to what I’m verbalizing, I can pay attention to things that keep coming up, or things that pull at my heart and then follow those roads.

    I struggle with prayer. But wanted to comment and throw some thoughts out because I think this is a really great question and post. Thanks, Mike.

  3. Mike Friesen says:

    Love this Eric. I think there is a certain amount of trust in any of those four types of prayers.There takes a certain amount of trust to say to God like David did, “your presence grieves me.” Just as it takes trust to say thanks. Meister Eckhart once said that if the only prayer we ever prayed was thanks, it would be enough.

    I think prayer connects us to the union of the trinity. We experience the reality of who God is,we are called into action, and we are transformed back into the person we already are.

    The way we pray will reveal a lot of who we think we are and who we think God is (which is often an indicator of the shadow). And, if we are our relationship with God then what we think, what we say, can be an act of prayer.

    I don’t think prayer was meant to be so much work, unfortunately, I think we have been trained out of prayer (which is why it becomes a discipline).

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