I was prompted to write this post after reading a post on Nan’s Notebook titled Prayer or Science? in which she quotes a few starting lines from an opinion piece in a local paper that urged its reader to pray for science. Nan finds the quoted lines dripping with irony.
It’s very clear that Nan’s experience is vastly different from mine. She states “As many of us know, the tendency to berate and discount science is prevalent among a large percentage of Christian believers” but that’s not my experience. Far from it.
I acknowledge there are some Christians may hold that view, but a large percentage? I’m not convinced. One explanation why we take different viewpoints might be our different personal experiences are very different. Another might be that the religious communities within our respective nations are very different. Or it might be because our understanding of what prayer is are very different.
I find the very idea that a God would allow harm or suffering to occur unless there’s sufficient pleas for him to do something about it quite appalling, and yet I do, on occasions, find myself in silent prayer. So what does prayer mean to me>
Perhaps I might have the skills to explain in less than a thousand words, but recent attempts at being succinct have been largely unsuccessful, so instead I will quote two testimonies from Quaker Faith & Practice that speak to my understanding.
2.28Elisabeth Holmgaard, 1984
There is little point in praying to be enabled to overcome some temptation, and then putting oneself in the very position in which the temptation can exert all its fascination. There is little point in praying that the sorrowing may be comforted and the lonely cheered, unless we ourselves set out to bring comfort and cheer to the sad and neglected in our own surroundings. There is little point in praying for our home and for our loved ones, and in going on being as selfish and inconsiderate as we have been. Prayer would be an evil rather than a blessing if it were only a way of getting God to do what we ourselves will not make the effort to do. God does not do things for us – he enables us to do them for ourselves.
2.29Thomas F Green, 1952
The sick and those caring for them have need of our prayers. But let us not imagine … that a few sentimental good wishes from a distance are all that is needed. Whenever we intercede in prayer we must be prepared for an answer which places a practical obligation upon us. A prayer is always a commitment.
Prayer is a call to action, not of God, but of ourselves.