Please forgive my puzzlement, but I am confused. I am seeking answers regarding the activity of prayer. (I am working on my first novel, and I need some education on this topic. I hope to include characters from a few different religions in my work. I want to treat them respectfully, and I want to depict them with truth and realism in the practice of their faiths.) This question focuses mainly on Christian prayer, but I would love to have feedback from those of any/all religions whose adherents pray, should they happen to read this post.
It seems to be common for people to pray for things they want or need. However, I have noticed through experience that often when Christian folk pray, they’ll add qualifiers like “may so-and-so have such-and-such, if it is God’s will” and “. . . remember me in your prayers and pray that if this be according God’s will, he will grant me this request. . . ” and “. . . Lord I am entrusting this situation to you as you alone can solve this. May your will be done. . . .” (These excerpts were copied directly from the prayer request forum today.)
If the response/answer to a prayer (for something) is expected to be God’s will, then why pray for it at all? If God’s will shall be done with prayer or without it, why bother asking for anything? God already knows your needs, wants and desires, and will provide what is according to God’s will, not anything that goes against God’s will. Asking for the opposite of what is God’s will would not be successful, because - once again - God’s will shall be done. Would God grant a person’s prayer for something he or she requests, but that God does not wish them to have? Also, prayers are always answered, but sometimes the answer to a prayer request is “no” or “not now”… but once again, that is God’s will, and you are denied what it is you think you want (new job, bigger house, cure for illness). If a hundred people were praying for something, is it thought that God would be more likely to listen and grant those prayers if fifty more people prayed for the same thing? Sixty? Seventy-five? Also, it doesn’t seem to me that God would ignore a sole person’s prayer request as we all are equally important/loved.
Is it better to pray out of devotion only, just for the strength/wisdom to accept whatever is God’s will, instead of praying for a particular earthly request… or just pray in order to visit with the presence of God, sharing thoughts and love and gratitude, instead of asking for something…? In your religion, are you advised/instructed to pray for things you need? Is it unusual for you to not pray?
I thank you for any input you may offer me. I hope I have not given offense. May you be blessed.
As a non-denominational Christian, I think prayer has three purposes. The first, and most important, is to praise God and thank Him for all the blessings He has bestowed on you. The second is to put your needs before Him, and ask for His blessing in providing it to you. God does tell us, “Ask, and you shall receive.” The third is to repent of your sins, and ask for God’s forgiveness.
However, the second is the part that people sometimes misuse in prayer, like asking God for a new Jaquar. To me, that is a want, a desire, not a need. I think of how many people that money could have helped if that person had bought a Ford or Chevy.
In addition, God does tell us that we should pray for one another in times of need. In other words, the more prayers God hears regarding that need, the more He is likely to grant that need being met. Sometimes God says “yes,” sometimes “no,” and sometimes “not yet.” Or, in some cases, He says “Maybe,” so that we can use our own free will to decide what to do and how to meet our needs.
The third part, the repenting of sins we have committed against His commandments to us, is necessary to be forgiven by Him so that our slate can be wiped clean, and that sin is forgotten by God as if it had never happened. Of course, we are not supposed to go out and keep committing that sin over and over. We must try to refrain from committing that sin again.
Of course, this is just my understanding of the purposes and uses of Christian prayer.
I hope this helped you a little.
May God bless you and keep you in His loving arms today and for the rest of your life.
God’s will is exercised through His providence. Before the world started He decided what he’d allow and do and let the world take a certain course. He also saw our future requests and incorporated those which were actually good for us and the world. Hence we pray “your will be done”, because we’re not wise enough to ask for the right things all the time.
To put it simply, Prayer is the calling of the mind and heart to God. There are two basic types of prayer: Vocal and Mental Vocal Prayer -The prayers that we recite such as the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be… etc as well as our daily formal prayers of Adoration, Praise, Petition and Thanksgiving. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has added “intercession” as a fifth type) As we recite these prayers, our minds should be focused on what we are praying and calling our hearts and minds to God. Mental Prayer: This is also known as contemplative prayer. It may seem complicated at first but simply thinking about God not necessarily having any words to say is mental prayer.
The best sources that I can recommend to you to learn about Christian prayer is from the Doctors of the Church, Theresa of Avilla and Therese of Lisieux
St. Therese of Lisieux is a good place to start, In my opinion, for beginners. She teaches us her “Little Way”.
St. Teresa of Avilla teaches us much about contemplative prayer.
It is best to go to the source and read what the saint has written rather than to trust the reviews of someone who is not an expert on prayer. But I do trust the late Father Thomas Dubay for studing Teresa of Avilla and John of the Cross
(I will generally share)
In my life when I failed to pray (for periods of time) it led me to hating suffering. Pain without purpose and without any hope. It led to an extremely unhealthy craving for self-medication, by any means available. It’s the best I can do on my own.
So Prayer gives me clear purpose, gives me the gift of hope and dissipates that craving. All because God provides that means. Not I.
I wished that someone else would have responded to this because I just don’t know where to start. And you have so many questions within the question. So I’ll begin with the understanding that God made us with free will to choose good over evil. Having a free will does not mean that every thing that we choose to do is free from suffering the consequences of our bad decisions. We should pray that God will answer our prayers according to His will because He knows what is best for our eternal salvation. Will he give us what we ask for if it is not according to His will? Maybe, maybe not. If we hound him enough He may just give us what we ask for in order to teach us a lesson that we would have been better off not getting what we asked for.
Regarding your questions about the number of people praying for a particular thing. I don’t think the number matters so much as what it is that the people are praying for. It is not wrong to pray for material things, mainly that God will continue to provide for our needs and if we are blessed enough to live a comfortable lifestyle then we should have enough to share with those who are less fortunate than ourselves.
I’m having a little difficulty putting my thoughts into words, but I want to write something about intercessory prayer and how it is important for us to pray for others. Abraham pleaded with God to save Sodom for the sake of the few righteous people. And each time Abraham pleaded for the fifty, the forty, the thirty, the twenty, the ten, God answered that He would not destroy the city on behalf of even the ten. But who was there to plead for the nine, the five, or even the one? We should never stop praying for others.
Here is a quote for the Catechism of the Catholic Church on intercessory prayer: vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p4s1c1a3.htm
110 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.111
III. PRAYER OF INTERCESSION 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.112 He is "able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."113 The Holy Spirit "himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."114 2635 Since Abraham, intercession - asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ’s, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks “not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” even to the point of praying for those who do him harm.115 2636 The first Christian communities lived this form of fellowship intensely.116 Thus the Apostle Paul gives them a share in his ministry of preaching the Gospel117 but also intercedes for them.118 The intercession of Christians recognizes no boundaries: “for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions,” for persecutors, for the salvation of those who reject the Gospel.119
Zab, thank you for visiting my question, and for your effort on my behalf. I am very grateful for your response and the many analyses within it. Your thoughts and explanations have given me much to include in my novel. To me, much of your input relates to the tale of the “farmer and his son.” It isn’t so much about prayer, but about choices and outlook on that which is given to us in life. There are many variations of the story. Mine begins like this:
A farmer’s wife is stricken with a serious illness, and his young son must stop attending school to work in the fields. While there, he finds a stray horse, large and grand with a frayed rope about his neck. He is able to catch it, and tries to ride it home, but it throws him and he falls on a wall of rocks, breaking his legs. He is able to hold the rope and he pulls himself up. While holding the neck of the horse, it takes him home after all. His broken bones render him unable to work for his father for the rest of the season, and the lives of his family are in jeopardy from hunger and inability to plant extra crops to sell for income.
The farmer’s neighbor greets the farmer on the road to town, and as all this is unknown to him, he asks how the farmer and his family are doing. The farmer begins by telling of how his wife is ill. The neighbor responds how that was terrible. The farmer says, “maybe, maybe not, we shall see,” and tells of how his son was able to help in the fields while his wife recovers. The neighbor responds how that was wonderful. The farmer says, “maybe, maybe not, we shall see,” and tells how his son had to quit school to do so. The neighbor responds how that was terrible. The farmer says, “maybe, maybe not, we shall see,” and tells how his son found the strong, beautiful horse. The neighbor responds how that was wonderful. The farmer says “maybe, maybe not, we shall see,” and continues to tell how the horse threw him and how his son’s legs were broken on their rock wall. The neighbor responds how that was terrible. The farmer says, “maybe, maybe not, we shall see,” and continues to tell how when he went back to the site of the accident to retrieve his son’s belongings, he saw the carcass of a very poisonous snake which had been stomped to death by the horse. The neighbor responds how that was wonderful. The farmer says “maybe, maybe not, we shall see,” and continues to say that such snakes live in groups, and as he was unable to follow a dead snake to its burrow, he caught a very bad cold by spending the rainy night awake in a tree in the hope that another snake would come along and lead him to the den, where he could kill or capture the other snakes. The neighbor responds how that was terrible. The farmer says, “maybe, maybe not, we shall see,” and tells how the evil king’s army (which was waging an unjust war against the neighboring land) swept through the village that very night to take men for use as soldiers. As he was not at home, the soldiers assumed his injured son was the only man of the house, and as his son had broken legs, they decided not to take him as he would be of no use to them! As you see, it can go on and on!
Such twists and turns in life are an infinite number of paths and roads paved with free will. We do not know all the answers or connections, and can only do our best with what we’ve been given. It is up to us to interpret what we’ve been given as “bad” or “good” (or “neutral” which becomes either “bad” or “good” depending upon our choices!) and that is all we have to work with.
Again, many thanks. I am always glad to receive input such as yours!
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