August 3rd – Down to earth praying

Depending on how you define it everybody prays.Everyone. Hard-headed atheists, convicted killers, tiny babies, and all the rest of us – we all pray. Not everyone kneels down and addresses God in Elizabethan language, of course, but supposing you define prayers, as some do, as your dominant desires, your deepest passions and yearnings, then it follows that everybody prays. The Bible in places seems to encourage this view of prayer, for it speaks of yearning for God, as a starving man will ache for food, or as a dried out deer pants for water.
Take it further. If this idea of praying is true, that our prayers are really our over-riding passions about things we would live and die for, then the solemn, theologically correct, reverently, high-minded, aspirations we solemnly express are not really prayers at all. Our real prayers are more like ‘make him love me Lord’, ‘get me out of this mess’, ’save me, I’m crashing’. ‘I need more money, and I need it now’, ‘I’m fed up, nobody loves me’, ‘I’m a failure’, ‘I want to be famous or popular or successful’. Or, as Augustine once prayed, “Lord make me pure – but not yet”.
Whatever its shortcomings this definition does bring our prayer life down to earth with a thud.If my only real prayers are my dominant desires, then I am ashamed of the censored and cleaned up versions with which I soothe my conscience.`
But surely praying is more than my selfish genes and hormones screaming for satisfaction? There is another voice of prayer which may not be called dominant but which I cannot lose. It’s a sense of what I ought to be before God, and how wondrous it is to lose my ‘me’ and meditate on and adore God. “Man’s reach must exceed his grasp” as the poet said “or what’s a heaven for?”.
Nevertheless let’s take one facet of this thought for today, to bring alive our praying which might be too polite, too religious, and instead give voice to what we truly yearn for more than anything else, and even ask God to direct our dominant desires. Psalm 42: 1-2
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
A Prayer:
Lord you have put within us all a God-shaped blank-where you alone belong and for which I am homesick.
Now read, and luxuriate in Job Chapter 28.

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Thought 4 The Day

The Bible: read it to get the facts; study it to get the meaning; meditate on it to get the benefit. (David Shepherd)

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