Kim Fabricus recently offered twelve ripostes for ‘militant atheists’, one of which was about prayer.
—Prayer plainly doesn’t work.
—Thank God! ((Garth Brooks had a similar insight: “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”))
On a spectrum of immature to mature, understandings of Christian prayer will range from the anthropocentric and mechanistic ((not to mention idolatrous and pagan – I even hear pantheist types talk about putting thoughts ‘out there’ to the universe)) notion that prayer is about us invoking God to do something we want for our world, to the more theocentric and relational conviction that prayer is about God involving us in what God wants to do for God’s world.
On this note, I wanted to post an example of this I heard last night in the last Romans lecture at Carey Baptist.
There are three agents ‘groaning’ in Romans 8:18-27; a) creation groaning as with birth pangs, b) the church groaning awaiting redemption, and c) the Spirit groaning in intercession for us and the world.
The world is not as it should be (creation groaning). God grieves that this is so (the Spirit groaning), and moves us to grief (church groaning) and action.
This parallels a scene from the Gospels.
Jesus’ groaning prayer in the Garden, overcome with grief. The triune God involved in groaning prayer – the Son praying to the Father in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ words ‘not my will but Thy will’ reflects that his prayer is about the divine will for the world and Jesus’ human obedience to it.
And Jesus also had invited his disciples to ‘watch and pray’ with him. As George Wieland said last night, “To pray is to keep Jesus company as he agonises in the garden.”