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Why do so many who call themselves Christians not pray?

14 June 2010

The church in the West is plagued in our time with an appalling absence of the life of prayer among it‘s members. Perhaps some of the reason for this is in the fact that we are indoctrinated with naturalism and empiricism from early childhood, so even when we do to believe in Him, we find it difficult to engage with, let alone depend upon, a supernatural Being whom we cannot see. Judging from the size of prayer meetings in cultures such as in Africa where there is a strong belief in the spirit world, people converted out of that background do not share our handicap to the same extent.

It is also true that praying out loud has now become very unfamiliar and awkward. So people are embarrassed to do so. People converted out of pagan cultures where prayer both public and private is offered to a deity, albeit a false one, do not share that same hangup.

Our exaggerated notions about individuality are unhealthy in several ways. One being that we have a huge cultural prejudice against belief in a sovereign God. Even when we come to believe in God, we have such a deep-seated view of our own self-autonomy that we find it enormously hard to grasp the main biblical reason why dependence upon almighty God in prayer is so needful for frail humanity.

And it is the case that we have far too sunny a view of human nature and of the condition of our Western liberal democracies which leads us to fail to grasp what a terribly wicked world we live in. If we believed the Bible’s teaching about the depravity of a fallen world, even and especially one which is relatively comfortable, we might be inclined to pray more. Those converted out of less comfortable social democracies again do not face the same handicap.

The 16th century Anglican Reformers had considerably less difficulty than we in grasping the central importance of prayer to the almighty God of the Bible, as reflected in the Book of Common Prayer’s Collect for the Second Sunday after Trinity (yesterday):

O Lord, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love; keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 8 August 2010 8:29 pm

    Why is there such a reticence to pray these days? Are we embarassed to reveal our spiritual state or worried about what others will think about our theology? If we think of prayer as holding a conversation with God, then surely we don’t need to worry about how much of His words we can recite to Him! We should be able to share with Him as we would with Android earthly father, make our requests known, aware of the fact that He knows what is best for us. In corporate prayer we should seek to gather together the needs, praise a worship of those present. We therefore need to be in tune with one another and our Heavenly Father to be effective in prayer.

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