Friday, February 19, 2016

'Teach Us to Pray': The Impossibility of Christian Prayer


Sarah Coakley ABC Religion and Ethics 16 Feb 2016  

There is a certain paradox at the heart of Christian prayer. One sees it most clearly in two of the central passages of the New Testament about prayer.

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ - if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him ... Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:14-17, 26-27)

"He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples'. He said to them, 'When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial." (Luke 11:1-4)

On the one hand, Paul tells us bluntly that, "We do not know how to pray." He seems to be admitting that prayer is, at least humanly speaking, impossible; and this comes as a bit of a relief if - like me - you find the attempt to pray difficult, distracted and very easy to give up on.

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