January 24, 2015
This is the tenth post in a twelve post series debating the Twelve Points of Reform for a New Christianity by John Shelby Monk.
- These “Twelve Points for Reform” come from John Spong’s book A New Christianity for a New World:
- The rebuttal of his points comes from Stephanie D. Monk – An Examination of the Theology of Bishop John Shelby Spong.
- I am responding to the twelve points for reform proposed by Mr. Spong, and their rebuttal by Ms. Monk.
Spong – Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
Monk – Response to Thesis 10: Effectual Prayer
Spong denies that prayer can have any effect because he denies the existence of a theistic God who can act inside the world today. The response to Spong’s theses about theism and miracles equally rebuts Spong’s objection to the efficacy of prayer.
Sly – Prayer Vs Gratitude
It wasn’t that long ago that the Governor Rick Perry set out to solve the Texas water crisis by declaring a day to pray for rain. More recently, I myself prayed for some kind of miracle to feed my hungry children. In both cases, there was some personal guilt involved in how we ended up in our situations, and I suggest that seeking out some kind of positive action to solve our own problems would be more useful. I believe the old adage that God helps those that help themselves, but also understand that sometimes helping yourself may be impossible, and prayer may be the only positive action that you can take.
Like Spong, I have no faith in a Supernatural Being who is listening to my prayers like he is a divine Santa Clause we can mail our wish list to, but I do not know that prayer has no effect, with either Deity or Natural God. Clearly there can be issues in counting on prayers being answered, but I could as easily say ALL prayers are answered, though not, perhaps, as hoped for. The act of prayer can also be seen as a type of meditation, in which we look deep into ourselves and question what exactly it is we would seek God’s help with, and whether we do indeed need God’s help, or whether we should be acting on our desire.
So it would seem that like the case of life after death, prayer is an issue beyond the limits of my human understanding. I will not presume to to state as fact my opinions on the after-life, or the efficacy of prayer. It was my mother’s daily prayers for peace that set me on my secret hero’s journey, and that has been an adventure I am more thankful for than words can say. At the very least, through our prayers we can reach a deeper understanding of ourselves, and that seems value enough. Do you pray for selfish motive, or like my mother, pray for world peace, pray for the poor, pray for the desperate? Do you blame God if your prayers are not answered as you wish?
While we are on the subject, I would suggest that rather than asking God for something, thanking God for something is a higher act of worship. If instead of praying for God’s blessing, you instead, looked into your heart and your life and realized how lucky you are for what God has already given you, you may discover that your prayers were already answered without your asking. Trying to give something back, to try to answer the prayers of the less fortunate, is the practice of a heroic spiritual economics in which you may discover that your debt continues to grow larger, and that happiness swells inside of you and spills out onto those around you.
The Grateful Heart and Seeking Mind of a Grateful Seeker Christianity will free you from the control of your selfish fears and hungers, and strengthen you through the practice of sharing your good fortune with those least fortunate. If Christianity took up as its task the propagation of the Grateful Seeker, it could end war and poverty. Those who stand within the Grateful Heart and Seeking Mind have nothing to fight about among themselves, and their seeking minds will be sharped on the challenge of working as a team dedicated to sharing their good fortune and ending poverty.
Or we can continue propagating Selfish Hearts and Certain Minds, spreading war and poverty on our blessed path to “heaven”. You must WANT to leave behind the Selfish Heart, and Certain Mind, or Jesus cannot rescue you.
Next up – Point #11: Guilt