Friday, January 25, 2019

A few thoughts on prayer

Prayer can generally be broken down into four categories.

  • Praise
  • Petition, i.e. asking for things
  • Asking forgiveness
  • Giving thanks

As modern Americans we turn up our noses at praise. At one time my perspective of praise was that it was an attempt to brown-nose God. Surely He could see through that.

My current perspective is that praising God serves to ensure we are in our proper place. The pitcher is on the mound. The catcher is behind the plate. The shortstop is between second-and-third. Everything runs better when the players are in their proper place on the field.

Consider the Our Father:

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, they will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
All praise. No sucking up.  No brown-nosing. Just identifying God's proper place.

Give us this day our daily bread
Bread can be metaphorical as in any recurring need. It can be generic for food. It can be asking for "Jesus, I am the bread of (eternal) life."

Our needs change from person-to-person and over time.

Asking forgiveness
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Suffer us not to be tempted and lead us from all that is evil.
As a Roman Catholic, forgiveness is more formalized for most other Christians. One advantage of that formality is that our faith gives us a blueprint of what God is looking for. It also provides the person asking forgiveness the sense of relief that comes from being forgiven.

He is looking for sorrow for having sinned, not so much sorrow over the possibly going to Hell but sorrow that we offended Him.

He is looking for ownership, that we accept responsibility and not shirk or minimize what we have done.

He asks us to concretely CHANGE what we are doing to avoid sin. If you do what you have always done, you will get what you always got.

One quirk of Catholics is we believe that we must verbally "confess" to be forgiven. The priest serves as a proxy for those people we have injured by our sin. IMHO, as humans we cannot feel forgiven when we fail to ask the victims for forgiveness. The problem is that sometimes it is not safe to tell the victim "Yeah, Don Corleone, about that Cadillac that got vandalized..." Other times it is not possible to identify all the victims of our sins. Hence the need for a proxy.

Giving Thanks
Giving thanks gives us serenity. It is very individual and will change from minute-to-minute.

I am thankful that I am inside tonight.
I am thankful that Mom and Dad are still with us.
I am thankful for family.
I am thankful for the dogs, even the little one who snores.
I am thankful that my guts don't hurt.
I am thankful the truck started the last time I turned the key.
I am thankful for the internet and the ability to reach out to folks like you and to have access to writers who would have been invisible to me fifteen years ago.

BTW: Nice post over at HOTR on thankfulness.


  1. I've often thought that confession and asking for forgiveness is good because it encourages one to look at their life and understand that they can be better and have more hope for the future.

    With thanksgiving, I think it is important every day to think of one thing you are thankful for. Big or small, just a simple prayer saying thanks. You focus more on what you have and what's around you than what you don't have. Again, a better outlook on life and that becomes part of how you interact with others.

  2. Our pastor (southern baptist) teaches ACTS. Adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication.

    1. That is AWESOME!

      Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing.

  3. Several years back, Dear Wife and I participated in a Bible study. The topic was death. One of the ideas presented was that at the time of death, Our Father with a very gentle touch separates the soul from our earthly body. Memento Mori.

    This is a very beautiful teaching, and has become part of my morning prayer---Lord, thank you for this day. Holy Spirit, what shall we endeavor to accomplish today?

    Thank you for all your good work, ERJ. And your awesome header, which includes "pray without ceasing". God bless.


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