‘We set forth our petitions before God, not in order to make known to Him our needs and desires, but rather so that we ourselves may realize that in these things it is necessary to turn to God for help.’ – St. Thomas Aquinas
I am really bothered by all of the “prayers” that are disseminated on social media these days. “Comment ‘AMEN’ and share with all your friends and you will receive (fill in the blank) from God in the next 24 hrs.” Do these people really believe that? Do they not realize that God just does not care how many AMEN’s and shares one does on Facebook? These “prayers” are not only arrogant, but misguided. Call me old fashioned, but I believe that simple, quiet, humble prayer is much more powerful that screaming posts on social media.
As a society, we have become used to instant gratification. “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” “NOW, NOW, NOW!!!!!!! Some seem to view God as a waiter that is at THEIR beck and call. Get real folks, God does not work like that!! God answers prayer, not demands.
I remember a saying that an old neighbor of mine used to say, (he was a retired Lutheran bishop) “God is not a bellhop”. We just don’t say “God, I want this or that” and expect it to miraculously appear. Yes, God answers all prayer, but sometimes the answer is “NO!” or “NOT YET!”. This doesn’t mean that God is ignoring the request, just that it may not be the right thing or the right time.
“Many cry to God, but not with the voice of the soul, but with the voice of the body; only the cry of the heart, of the soul, reaches God.” St. Augustine
No matter how one feels about God, we all pray in some form or another. Even the most ardent atheist, when faced with great peril, will pray.
I think of the old phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes”. When faced with imminent peril, prayer just comes automatically. No thought necessary. However, in such times one may make promises to the divine that when the peril passes, they more than likely will not keep. Thus, as St Augustine says prayer must come from the heart and soul. It cannot be just a prayer to save one’s ass.
Prayer is truly the language of the soul; thus, it is the way to communicate and commune with God. The quiet solitude of one’s soul is a much better communication device than a cellphone or even social media. First, it never needs to be charged up because the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Second, it can’t be hacked so you can be assured that the messages (prayers) get through without being messed with and it is private, unless you choose otherwise.
“Arm yourself with prayer, rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes.” St. Dominic de Guzman
It is best to remain humble and undemanding. The simpler the prayer, the better (and stronger). Do not be like the Pharisees who pray loudly on the street corner dressed in all their finery. Go into your room and shut the door and pray privately. God hears the humble above the haughty.
Prayer need not be complicated. I am reminded of two short prayers that are highly effective. The first is The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me.” and the second is The Trisagion (Greek for “thrice holy”): “O Holy God. O Holy Mighty One. O Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us.” Arm yourself with these two prayers and …!! Oh, a third simple and effective prayer is, “Thanks God!”
The most well-known Christian prayer is the Our Father or The Lord’s Prayer. We all learned it as children and can recite it without thinking about it. That is my point in writing this missive; we recite it without thinking about it. I will share some of my thoughts on the deeper meaning of this beautiful, simple prayer.
This prayer has unfortunately been a victim of political correctness; rewritten to make it more gender neutral. Some attempts have been bad (“Our Father/Mother…”). Some have been more palatable (“Our Creator…). I am, for lack of a better term, a traditionalist, and prefer to leave the words alone. It is the meaning behind the words that matter the most, and in my opinion, the meaning is watered down with the changes.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be they name…”
Some people have a problem with the word “father” for various reasons which I am sensitive to; however, some of the rewrites detract from the heart of the prayer. The examples I gave above either leave one thinking that God is an hermaphrodite in the first one and in the second, takes away the nurturing factor. God is not JUST our creator. We are children of God after all, God is also our loving and nurturing parent. We must, as God’s children, honor, love, and respect God even more than we do our earthly parents.
“…thy Kingdom come; thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…”
Whenever I pray the Our Father, I always put strong emphasis on the word “thy”. We are after all praying for the coming of God’s kingdom and whatever God wills for us. As in heaven, so on earth.
“…give us this day our daily bread…”
We pray for our daily needs, not our wants or desires. Plain and simple we ask for our nutritional needs, as well as clothing, housing, and the like. Not for the latest model of the iPhone, a fancy car, obscene amounts of money, etc.
“…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…”
We pray humbly for God’s forgiveness and remind ourselves that we need to forgive others as well.
“…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”
We know that we, as humans, are imperfect. We are subject to many temptations. Our choices can, invariably, lead us to turn our backs on God. We pray for the strength to resist, as well as for mercy and salvation when we fall.
“for the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory are Yours now and forever…”
We give God praise, recognizing that all creation is His and we are His people.
So Be It!!
Rev. Fr. Andrew Smith grew up in Appleton. WI. He studied Theology, Philosophy and Sociology at Lakeland University in Sheboygan, WI and completed his theological studies at Holy Redeemer Seminary of the UICC. Fr. Andrew was ordained to the diaconate in December of 2010 and to the Order of Presbyters in May of 2011. He entered his novitiate in the Order of Preachers Old Catholic in August of 2016 and took his three- year vows in May 2017. Fr. Andrew is pastor of St Dominic Old Catholic Church in Oshkosh, WI. He enjoys cooking, reading, writing and is an avid history buff.