When To Thank God: Towards A Theology Of Prayer, Pt. 13

As I've said before, I'm not a peson who uses prayer to request "things". In fact, I don't pray for things (read more about that HERE). To many, this might seem irreverent or even outright ridiculous. This is probably the case because in our Western culture, which has been dominated by patriarchalism, capitalism and democracy, many people have the following view of God: The Father (patriarchy), who is rich beyond measure (capitalism) has tons of mansions and great gifts to give out to those whom He pleases as He pleases (democracy). With these images in mind, people head into the prayer event with the idea that if they just have enough faith, whatever they ask for, they can get.

This is not a view that I hold. As I said HERE, I do not believe that "asking, seeking and knocking" is about us getting things. Instead, it is about us "asking, seeking and knocking" to find out God's wants and desires; it is about Him! So, I treat prayer as the time when I can attend to God's presence around us and in us to find out His desires and wants. Now, since I don't pray and ask for things but rather I ask for the Holy Spirit's presence, I never go into prayer expecting to "get" anything. I do enter into the prayer event, however, with the hope and anticipation of experiencing God's presence. For me, that is enough. As Jesus remarks in Lk., "Why would you pray for things when you can ask for the Holy Spirit?"

This all informs my theology of the material things that I do have. I do not just whimsically or piously suggest that the things I own, God gave me. In fact, I believe that I work very hard for these things and that God doesn't give them. And I realize that my saying this in a capitalistic society filled with Christians will rub many people the wrong way. Christians in our current Western culture want to believe that everything they have is a gift from God because, if it is a gift from God, well, then they are special in God's eyes and not only that, they are not responsible for having it. If they are not responsible for having it (because God gave it to them and not someone else), then neither are they responsible for sharing it with those in need.

For me, this is a HUGE problem. It is a HUGE problem because it has led to a narcissistic, hedonistic, capitalistic-driven form of Christianity. And lest I understate my point: This is NOT Christianity in its truest sense! In my view, one can never prove (in a historical sense) that God actually gave them something. Can they think God gave them something? Yes! Can they try to argue that He did? Yes! Can they prove it with historical data? No! So, to suggest with certainty that God gave them something is very unfounded and presumptuous. I made a vow years ago to NEVER presume on God (you can read more about that in earlier posts in this series).

So, what has happened with me is that I don't just assumingly "thank God" for things. I describe this as "Thanking God on the front versus thanking God on the back". What I mean by thanking God on the front is to act is if everything you have is a gift from God that He needs thanked for. I do not do this. Instead, I thank God on the back. What I mean by this is that instead of being presumptuous on the front, I commit to God that, whatever I do have, I will show my gratitude to Him for loving me, by using it to please and glorify Him if I can! Do you see how this changes things?

For me, presuming on God is a lot of what has led Western Christianity down many of the screwed up paths that it currently finds itself lost on. It seems evident to me that God is more pleased when I don't presume on Him but rather, when I show Him my thankfulness and gratitude by using what I do have to please and glorify Him. So, when should we thank God? Well, I would contend that we present our thanks to Him not when we get something that we "might" think He gave us but rather, always (yes, I said "always",) by using what we do have to please Him! And when this happens, God enjoys it! Indeed, He inhabits such praises!!!


Other posts in this series:

1) Defining Prayer
2) Imaging Prayer
3) Asking in Prayer
4) Why I Don't Pray For Things
5) Pray Without Ceasing? Why?
6) Does Prayer Work?
7) Can Prayer Change God's Mind?
8) What Is Genuine Prayer?
9) Frustration & Prayer (Rethinking Psalm 137)
10) Why Pray If God Already Knows Your Thoughts?
11) Mystical Praying
12) Prayer In School & At Public Events

No comments:

Post a Comment