November 26, 2004

Draw Near to God

Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, "God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

"God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

-- James 4:1-10 (NRSV)

History note: George Fox (the Quaker not the country-western singer) sites the doctrine of James in his original statement on the Peace Testimony. So Fox at least saw this as relevant. I believe this passage is what Fox had in mind when he said that Christ takes away the occasion of war.

We also see here more stuff on prayer. We ask for stuff so we can spend it on our pleasures so God doesn't answer the prayer. That makes two reasons given thus far for unanswered prayer, a wavering mind, and selfishness of intention.

It echoes the Jesus of the gospels,

NRSV But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

NJB Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God's saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well.(Matthew 6:33)

KJV But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.(Matthew 6:33)

NIV But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.(Matthew 6:33)

So the context of prayer is God's will, God's reign on earth, God's righteousness, God's saving-justice. Our prayers are measured against that standard. They are judged and found wanting.

Peace be with you all.


At 8:59 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

What about Matthew 7: 7 ...
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. ... I guess the ggod things are to be determined by God. I noticed Luke replaced the "good things" with "the holy spirit" (11: 13).

The "Lord's Prayer" seems to say it's ok to pray for your daily bread.

You guys were talking about this before - what is it ok to pray for. I don't know the answer but what I do is pray for what I want, if I have strong feelings about it - likeasking that Kermit my cat would get well. I think that if you have an intimate relationship with someone, it would be odd not to talk to them about the stuff that's important to you. Kermit got well, against all odds :-)

At 6:54 a.m., Blogger david said...

I think for many people, ordinary experience is taht not all prayer is answered (at least not asnwered with a resounding, YES!). Ther scripture text we've been reading gives two instances where you should expect a firm, No. 1) When your faith wavers; and 2) when your motives are selfish.

There are other cases where people ask whether or not prayer is the right thing to do. Late stages of terminal disease. Prayer for one side during a war (or a football game). To win the lottery.

How do you reconcile the gospel claims that God gives good things to those who ask with common experience and even experiences in scripture like when King David prays for the life of his son (2 Samuel 12:15-23)?

At 10:32 a.m., Blogger Meredith said...

Dear David,

Lots of interesting food for thought in this post of yours. I guess the one to start with is the first line: "Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?" I would volunteer a simple "yes". If I grasp the simple perfection of things unfolding just as they should, then conflicts and disputes have only one source: in me. As I move toward acceptance of every situation, conflicts and disputes dissipate. Peace ensues. I become a friend with God, with the purity and perfection of what is. I want nothing more than this - indeed this Existence is such a marvel.

A note on prayer: I have evolved so much in my personal prayer life. It is now just this: Gratitude and listening. Simple, pure, and such a blissful communion - I ask for nothing, and receive Peace.

Peace to all of you,

At 1:45 p.m., Blogger Marjorie said...

I've said it before, I don't know how to pray. I used to pray formally and with discipline (you could say I prayed religiously, hahaha). Lately, if I try to pray this way, I rush through, I feel double-minded, impatient and confused as to what I'm supposed to be praying for -- how I'd like to see things done or simply for God's will, which I know not. But praying for God's will seems so odd, because for every prayer subject, the refrain is God's will be done.

Between reading a bit of Agnes Sanford on prayer and a bit of Pema Chodron (a Buddhist nun, per Meredith's suggestion), I am wondering if a meditative/ contemplative prayer is the answer for me. Just sitting in the stillness with thanksgiving and meekness might be all I can do right now. Maybe its all I'm supposed to do.

Certainly I pray for the concerns most strongly in my mind and I do have a sort of running dialogue prayer throughout the day (like your example of praying while doing the dishes on your other blog), but I have not been good about setting aside a specific prayer time recently.

At 2:34 p.m., Blogger david said...

I have always been lousy about times and places myself. Taht's why I started asking about a local Quaker group. I knew I needed it and knew I needed something corporate.

At 3:02 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

How to pray - a really interestin subject. Before I took that retreat, I thought of prayer as the reciting of prayers written by others, hopefully with a good attitude. But Ignatian prayer is different - it's seen as a way to be with God, to interact, to have a relationship. So that kind of prayer is more a two way conversation on whatever subject is important to you. God/Jesus talks back and your imagination is used to help thinngs along (sometimes called imaginative prayer). But there's another kind of prayer that Marjorie mentioned (contemplative prayer), which is more like silent meditation ... a waiting and listening. I don't think one kind is better than another, although one kind may be better for a person at a certain time or circumstance. For people following Ignation prayer, contemplative prayer doesn't work so well because there are no "emotional movements" to be discerned ... Ignation prayer depends in part on "discerning the spirits" in prayer :-). Sorry i babbled on so long!

At 3:28 p.m., Blogger david said...


Maybe this article will be of interest to you (the guy is a Jesuit). He talks of kataphatic and apophatic prayer. Fancy academic terms I know. But basically what yer talking about here.

I tend to aim for apophatic -- but use kataphatic to focus me and direct the aapophatic experience.

At 4:11 p.m., Blogger crystal said...

Thanks David - an interesting article. Hmmm ... I wonder if Fr. MacLeod is any relation of Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander - hehehe.

About prayers being answered - although Kermit got well when the docs expected her not to, I don't know if it's because God made her so. And when my mom was sick, I prayed for her to get well but she got sicker and died. I don't know why some prayers get answered and some don't. But I still ask for what I want because it seems like the honest thing to do. I don't ask for money or even to get published :-), but for instance, for years I've been asking for the healing of a relationship ... nothing has come of the prayers but I keep asking. Now my prayers start off ... "you're probably getting really tired of me asking you about this, but ..." :-)

At 7:05 p.m., Blogger Ellie15 said...

Prayer is conversation with God. Jesus called him Daddy, and so should we. Pray without ceasing, says Paul. Completely impractical, we may say, but not so. Just to be aware of God's presence all day; that's an awesome thought, but possible. Ask Meredith. Nothing else matters; or to put it differently everything else is glorified thereby.

We have a relationship with God, who loves us infinitely more and better than any other relationship we have enjoyed. Some of the Pentecostals I know seem to live it like that, and they're lovely people.

I don't pretend I can do this, but it's my goal; it's the life of prayer.



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