There are two questions about prayer I have long thought over. I am not interested in flippant responses that “answer” these questions. I think there is legitimate (but mostly ignored) tension that should cause us to think about how and what we pray.
1) Intercession. Praying for other people is supposed to be a major facet of prayer. However, most of the time when I intercede, or have heard others intercede, the prayer usually has more to do with me and my problem with that person. I get frustrated, angry, annoyed, irritated, or any number of other things, with people and pray that God grant them spiritual growth so they quit being so stinking irritating.
I doubt this is what intercession is supposed to be. Do we pause to consider whether our intercession is just anger? Is our concern for other people actually masked concern for our self? Or perhaps a little Pharisaical, “Lord thank you I don’t have the problems those jokers have. Lord help em. Amen.”
I think a lot of intercession is nothing more than proud gloating.
2) Worry. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, to “take no thought for tomorrow.” The context shows that He is referring to worry, wondering where food will come from and so forth. Should I not pray about worries for tomorrow then?
Consider–Saturday night, I’m in my basement, getting ready for Sunday sermon. I pray for people in the church, I pray for the sermon to go well, I pray that people get off their dumb excuses and get to church (there’s some of that proud intercession), etc. My thoughts about Sunday that take place on Saturday can be described with no other word than “Worry.”
I know many people say that we should take our worries to God in prayer “leave em with Jesus, brother,” and this qualifies as not worrying. However, if I’m not supposed to worry, how is bringing my worries to Jesus not worrying? It would be like Adam bringing bushels of half-eaten forbidden fruit to God.
Faith is a trust that God will take care of you. Faith is best shown by lack of worry and fear. If our prayers are mostly worry and fear, is this even a legitimate prayer? Isn’t it just giving voice to our lack of faith, which pretty much destroys the whole concept of prayer? (“Ask, in prayer, believing.”) I know we “cast our cares upon Him,” but still, He tells us not to worry.
There have been many a Saturday where I said to God, “You know, I’m not even going to think about tomorrow. You can take care of that, help me get my sermon ready today.” Perhaps that is more honoring than two hours of consternation about how church might be a failure tomorrow.
Again, let me just say, I am not interested in flippant responses to these questions. Regardless of what is said about this, I will continue to think on them. If you have any thoughts that might further my thoughts, feel free to share, but don’t Job’s Friends me here!