In a manner of speaking.
Managed to get my Modern Christology essay in this morning after finishing it just before midnight last night. Had a major ‘writer’s block’ by Saturday and what I can only put down to a bit of divine inspiration got it going again on Sunday. If I even hint at doing a systematics course next year, please shoot me and put me out of my misery early. I’ve decided I like practical theology and I can’t be bothered with arguments over minutiae (even though they are fun sometimes).
Now, the irony of this essay was that it was on “the role of Christology in the Christian account of prayer”. I came at it from the perspective of what our understanding of petitionary prayer says about Jesus. Interesting enough, but the really illuminating feature of the study I did was about petitionary prayer itself. In order to determine a link to Christology, I first needed to establish the ‘nature’ of petitionary prayer. The conclusion was ‘interesting’.
When we pray a prayer of petition or intercession, what do we expect to happen? Here’s a joke which, I think, pretty much sums up what I reckon many people think of prayer:
A journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time.
So they went to check it out. The journalist went to the Wailing Wall and there he was walking slowly up to the holy site.
After about 45 minutes, he turned to leave, and the journalist approached him for an interview..
“Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wailing Wall and praying?”
“For about 60 years.”
“60 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?”
“I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and hatred to stop, I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man.”
“How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?”
“Like I’m talking to a b****y brick wall.”
Sound familiar? If so, it’s because of what we ‘expect’ of prayer. We expect a ‘fix’, a ‘cure’, an ‘intervention’ of some sort. But in all the reading I did, this was never the expectation of prayer. Our prayers cannot change the mind of God. Rather, our prayers can change the mind of ourselves. Prayer is about knowing God’s will – understanding what it is and coming to terms with it. We can’t bully or pester God into doing something we want done, but we can come to know what He wants us to do.
Now, here’s the biggie – does God ‘pass on’ our requests to those who are in a position to answer prayers?