Seniors: Abusive Prayer Explained

Aug 1st, 2011 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Prayer is often a misused word and an abused practice.  It seems to fall in the category of “wishing” for things, conditions, outcomes to work out the way we would like them to.  Politicians have jumped to the prayer altar, extolling the need for and desirability of praying about issues and causes favorable to their point of view.  Pastors and other “religious” zealots have called prayer into the fray to fight the demons they perceive taking over our lives.  Individuals often rely on prayer to get them through some grave illness, calamity or another.  Others see prayer as rescue,  often asking for circumstances we could do something about to change, if we just would.

Abusive prayer is often seen as a fairy tale image of how a “religious” practice works.  Pray for it and, like the lottery, you just may win.  It is often perceived as a way to stimulate “miracles,” while requiring little of us.  It has been used to invoke strength in the face of mighty battles to defeat the wicked ones, always “those” who are against us.  Abusive prayer petitions the one to whom prayer is addressed to join our side, bless our biases, protect us from the forces of evil we conjure up.

Mixing in the correct language, a sacerdotal tone, a prayerful posture often seems to emphasize the sincerity and commitment to praying.  It is not the language or the tone or posture.  It is the spirit.  Prayer is a perfectly legitimate behavior, rite, practice.  It is just not a manipulative tool which somehow demands attention and outcome to our preferences.  Thinking so puts prayer in the category of maneuvering religion and its practices into a corner it is not meant to occupy.

Quietly, silently, privately are the preferred methods for going to prayer.  Public prayer is often a means for setting a tone, much as a lecture or sermon might.  It frequently violates many of the mores of the group, by its urging of attitudes and insights that are not prayerfully appropriate.  Prayer is not a cheerleader exercise.

Prayer is a means for exercising and perfecting humility.  It is a way to come to silence, meditation, openness to listen.  It does not shout.  It does not insist.  It does not pound the table.  It waits.  It receives.  Its purpose is peace.

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