One of my earliest critical questions of the Christianity I was raised in had to do with prayer. "If God is omniscient, and knows my desires and needs before I even name them, what is the point of praying? If God is in control, what sway can my little petition have on his will?"
Twenty years later, it's still a great question. Why do we pray? Why is prayer, both individual and corporate, such a central facet of the Christian life?
I was recently accepted to a Doctor of Ministry program at Wesley Theological Seminary. Don't worry, this won't entail any cross-country moves - I'm able to complete this coursework mostly at home, with a few trips here and there. I will do a whole post soon on this incredibly exciting opportunity that just laid itself in front of me.
Some of the first reading I'm tackling in advance of our January meeting session are Wesley's sermons. It's so affirming to read his sermons once again. It reminds me of why I believe what I believe. Why I am an Arminian. How convinced I am that "the nature and the name of God" is Love. How blessed is the assurance of God's mercy and forgiveness toward me - and everyone.
I'm reading through some of his series on the Sermon on the Mount. He has one whole sermon just on the Lord's Prayer. As I read it this afternoon, these words spoke to my heart:
"So that the end of your praying is not to inform God, as though he knew not your wants already; but rather to inform yourselves, to fix the sense of those wants more deeply in your hearts, and the sense of your continual dependence on him who only is able to supply all your wants. It is not so much to move God - who is all the more ready to give than you to ask - as to move yourselves, that you may be willing and ready to receive the good things he has prepared for you" (John Wesley's Sermons: An Anthology, 227-8).
Wow! So prayer is really a kind of spiritual training, a conditioning. It's an exercise we do to grow our spiritual muscle, so that we can be made worthy of the gifts that God will give us. It's a training to more clearly discern what are needs are, and to see those opportunities around us where our needs may be met. This makes so much sense to me!