I was going through some old files and came upon an old “prayer list” that we used to hand out during prayer meetings at the church. Sometimes if space permit we will print the same list in the Sunday worship bulletin. Looking at the list, the items were categorized under two sections: There were the “Items for Thanksgiving”, and then there were “Items for Prayer.” The “Thanksgiving” list contain basically the “good things”: someone finding a job, someone recovered from an illness, a successful church program, etc. While the “Prayer” list contained the “bad stuff”: Someone with a sick child, someone being laid off, etc.
Looking at the list today (and countless others that we printed using the same “template”), it became clear to me now that the implicit purpose of the prayer meetings was to move items from one list to the other, from the “items for prayer” list to “items for thanksgiving” list. That was it. That was the goal.
I can go on writing forever about the fundamental issues that I see with that approach. But I thought it may be more interesting if I simply leave this with you…with a few questions for thought:
What does it say about us, when we instinctively classify every human experience we encounter under those two headings? Can you think of different, or better “headings”?
Is prayer, fundamentally speaking, a “means to an end”? Regardless of whatever the “end” is?
If we accept the popular notion that prayer is fundamental to our Christian spirituality, what does this pattern or tendency of prayer say about our spirituality, and ultimately our approach or understanding of the Christian faith?