AN APOLOGETIC FOR PRAYER
“Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus’ disciples requested of him (Luke 11:1). They apparently did not have to be convinced of its importance. While others seem less persuaded. It is with the latter in mind, that the following takes shape.
(1) Prayer appears to be a human disposition. One which becomes more evident when we face adversity. So that its lack may be attributed not only to impiety but inhumanity. This controversial assessment will obviously not be acceptable to all.
(2) Prayer is assuredly a healthy exercise. Countless studies have reached this conclusion. As when persons given to prayer recover more quickly from surgery. Or when one’s immune system is strengthened.
(3) Prayer improves our experience with life. For instance, our daughter Lois will count her blessings at the outset of the day, thus to find that things go better for her thereafter. While I am more inclined to pray toward day’s end, recalling that for which I am especially thankful. This includes not only favorable experiences as such, but God’s grace during times of stress.
(4) It is said that more is accomplished by prayer than we realize. This brings to mind occasions when I have felt strangely impressed to pray for someone with whom I am not regularly in touch. Then, on occasion, I have learned that they were struggling with some problem at the time I felt so prompted.
(5) Jesus prayed with regularity, and especially at critical points in his public ministry. The latter as especially emphasized in Luke’s gospel. Which leads one to the surprising conclusion that one can be too busy not to pray.
(6) Jesus also advocated prayer for his disciples. It was not a privilege thus reserved for a select few. And he is known for his good counsel, not only among Christians but a wide variety of other persons.
(7) Since prayer is so widely exercised, it would seem desirable. One study reported that 84% of American adults claimed to have prayed during the previous week. There seems to be no reason to doubt their involvement.
(8) Prayer enables one to endure adverse circumstances. According, the apostle Paul allowed: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it (thorn in the flesh, probably with reference to a physical disability) away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor. 12:8-9).
(9) Prayer seems calculated to clarify our thinking. So that we choose a preferable alternative, or discover a new option. Sometimes with the impression of being guided in this regard.
(10) Prayer stimulates service. We feel deeply impressed to minister to the needs of others. Recalling Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, ranging from survival needs to that of self-realization. Hence, suggesting a holistic ministry.
This admittedly constitutes a short list, since it could be greatly enlarged. Nor does it touch on the problems associated with prayer. For instance, C. S. Lewis suggests that if our mind wanders during prayer, pray concerning that which comes to mind. In this way, we do not focus on the problem but persist in our endeavor.
Do I always feel inclined to pray? No, not always. What then? I often pray in any case. More often than not, this proves to be a blessing.
Then I am especially incited to pray when it comes to mind, “For we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). While the idiom allows for the fact that political and social adversaries may be involved, it amounts to a conflict of cosmic proportions. Recalling my experience in the military during World War II, when I was deeply impressed with the critical importance of prayer.
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