Sunday, March 04, 2007

Random dribbles

Wow, it has been a really long time since I've posted. Life has gotten crazy and I don't have nearly the time anymore. In any case, for my faithful readership (of one) I ought to scribble down a few things that I have been looking into recently:

I. Why do LDS ignore (largely) the psalms?
They are holy writ, and they can teach us amazing things about the gospel. For instance, take a look at one of Christ's last utterances in mortaility: My god, my god, why had thou forsaken me? Most LDS don't realize that this quote comes directly out of the 22nd (in the KJV reckoning) psalm. It is a prayer that begins with desolation, but ends aknowledging that the Lord will triumph. Christ wasn't just expressing his sorrow, but his ultimate confidence that he would be victorious. Most LDS would say that here, by quoting that phrase, Jesus was fulfilling prophecy, but to suggest that that was all he was doing would be to say that Christ was not aware of that scripture or its implications, which is surely not the case. Christ chose it intentionally for what it would teach his disciples, who were steeped in the OT.

II. What is a "vain repetition"?
CS Lewis suggests that our prayers are bound to become repetitious no matter what we do. (In fact, it is just as artificial to be concerned with always coming up with new phrases to express our needs and thanks.) We will use the same words, period. The only important thing, then, if that we are constantly pouring new meaning and immediacy into those words. What then is the problem with using traditional phrases in prayer? That is not to say that we should abandon the extemporaneous for rote prayer, but that there might not be a problem in "festooning" our prayers with ancient, traditional phrases, which have become, over time, packed with meaning. For more info read: Letters to Malcom, Chiefly on Prayer by Lewis.

III. Pattern of prayer?
In the church our pattern of prayer is very basic:
Address God.
Thank him.
Ask him.
Close through Jesus Christ.

Might I submit that we try a slightly expanded version? It is called the ACTS pattern, and it addresses somethings we often leave undone in out prayers.

Address God


Close through Jesus Christ.

This has been working well for me. Try it and see what you think.


Amanda said...

thanks for your insight on prayer.

I ask a question (though I risk exposing my lack of scriptural knowledge): Is there a specific chapter in Acts that demonstrates this kind of prayer, or is it an underlying theme of the book? I'm wanting to know how to approach Acts to find this inspiration myself.

Latter-Day Guy said...

This approach doesn't come from the book of Acts in any direct way. The source from which I gleaned it used ACTS merely as a convenient acronym for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.

It broadens prayer from what can be a mere thank you and wishlist. Adding the often forgotten elements of Adoration (praise and worship: acknowledgment of the greatness of glory of God) and Contrition (repentance: acknowledgment of one's need for grace). These two elements at the beginning help one to be in the proper mindset––reminded of our role and God's role––before moving on to prayer's other aspects.

(Another help in spiritually dry periods, if you don't think it too heretical, is to use the daily office or Liturgy of the Hours. It is a prayerbook based on an ancient pattern and long tradition. It uses psalms and other scripture readings as recitations before the "prayer" proper. While the prayer for each hour is written down, I just use that moment for my own private prayer, having been prepared [remember, Adoration and Contrition] by the foregoing scripture readings. The edition I use, because I am musically minded, is called the Mundelein Psalter. It is an English edition and it actually has psalm tones [short melodies] on which to sing the psalms and other canticles. Singing them forces one to slow down and let the text sink in, though it is by no means necessary––especially if it causes frustration or gets in the way––though, if your natural inclinations make this attractive to you, I can't recommend it highly enough.)

It is important to remember that prayer is a discipline––and act of the will. Sometimes, when the stars align and it is God's will, the prayer is given to us through the Spirit; sometimes we won't even need words. Usually, though, we just do our best; at the most difficult times, just going on because it is right, because we owe Him what little praise we can offer.

;-) That was probably more than you were looking for though!