Showing items filed under “J: The Kneelers, the Chapel: The Spiritual Life ”


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Since practitioners of various religions say prayers, we readily assume it is a shared, virtually universal activity, of which Christianity is one example. And in one way this is true. But in these entries we want to emphasize what is unique to prayers by Christians. How do we understand it as distinctive? How are our beliefs knit together inseparably from this practice?

First of all, prayer is not a work. It does not accomplish anything we can account to the credit of ourselves or others before God. Likewise we are never adept to who are ‘good at it.’ In his ‘Beginning to Pray,’ Metropolitan Anthony Bloom makes the point by saying that we are always beginners by the very nature of the activity. We must ask our Lord to teach us how we ought to pray. (Matthew 6:9-13)

And the paradigm prayer He gives us is His own, presuming His own relation to His Abba and anticipating His own ‘time of trial.’ In other words, Christians of themselves as called into a share, into participation, in Jesus’ prayer. In Romans 8:15-17, Paul makes the same point by saying that our prayer is to the Father through the power of the Spirit as ‘co-heirs,’ adopted, with the Son. Though we speak, in a deep sense, we are prayed through by the Spirit.

For this reason, our own incapacity, what Paul calls ‘groaning’, does not inhibit our praying. We live ‘between the times’ in every prayer, giving voice to the groaning of creation as it awaits the end (8:22). But our prayer also presumes the victory over sin and death in Christ Jesus (vv.37-39). Prayer too is always ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. It encapsulates and epitomizes the Christian life.

Kinds of Prayer

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Traditionally, prayer has been subdivided into petition, thanksgiving, confession, and adoration. The wise and balanced prayer life would include all four, in whatever measure or style suits the person.
One way to think about them is to relate each back to our basic account of praying. Petition raises the question of whether or not our prayers are answered. We believe we are heard, and yet all things lie in God’s hands, where all ultimately works for good. So our petitions are offered in Christ’s one great intercession at the right hand of the Father, and are surrendered thereto. Adoration brings us back to the heart of the matter, acknowledging, enjoying, and celebrating that God is God. Thanksgiving recalls the first quality of Christian living, response to grace as a ‘sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.’ (BCP). Personal thanksgiving dovetails with our central corporate act, the Eucharist. Finally contrition reminds us that we do none of this on our own. For Bernard of Clairvaux ‘spirituality’ is effectively synonymous with contrition.

When do you engage in each? Which gets shortchanged?


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