Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > Stealing Prayers, part 2

Stealing Prayers, part 2

If prayer is personal communication with God, then what role does praying another person’s prayer play in that communication?  It seems a little impersonal.  What is the benefit?

David deSilva answers this question by going back to basics: what is prayer?  He says,

“Prayers easily become “wish lists” of things we would like to receive or see happen in the circumstances around us.  But what does God want to see happen in you?  What is God’s agenda as you approach God in prayer?  Liturgical prayers, such as those found in the Book of Common Prayer, have much to teach us about this agenda, directing our prayers and desires toward God’s agenda.”

I certainly think deSilva is on to something here.  There is no question that in my personal and corporate experience with prayer, the default mode (to the tune of about 90% in my estimation) of prayer is intercession.  Our prayer is primarily composed of asking God for stuff.  And more than not the stuff we ask for is a change in personal or familial circumstances.  Where is the praise?  Where is the confession?  Where is the silence and listening?  Perhaps this is why we don’t have more answered prayer!  Back to deSilva…

“The problem with unanswered prayer is often not a lack of faith on our part or a lack of concern on God’s part, but, as James diagnosed, asking wrongly (Jas 4:2-3).  Praying is not about getting God to give us what we want; it is about learning to want what God wants to give.”

That is a sentence that is worth reading over and over again.  It may even become a prayer that leads to confession!!!

But what about “stealing prayers”?  How does praying another person’s prayer help overcome these concerns?

“Liturgical prayer is one means by which the Church helps us to ask rightly: “So that we may obtain our petitions, make us to ask such things as will please you” (Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church).  Liturgical prayers help trim away what is self-serving in our conversation with God and open our minds and hearts to the full range of what God desires to work in us, among us, and through us.”

deSilva provides an example of something called the “Collect of the Day.” (full disclosure: never heard of it before).  He explains, “a “collect” is a prayer that seeks to gather up and express the petitions of the assembled worshipers, inviting them to make this the focus of their individual longings and prayers.  Where we might come before God with our private agendas, the Collect of the Day can facilitate God’s invasion into our lives with his agenda, particularly if we “take it home,” as it were, and use it as a basis for reflection, examination, and prayer.”

Here is an example of a “Collect of the Day:”

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal.

deSilva believes that the Collect calls us to self-examination: what works of darkness are manifesting themselves in my attitudes, ambitions, speech, and behaviors?  What is at work in me behind these manifestations, about which I need to seek God’s intervention?

The Collect also “calls me to a new attentiveness and orientation as I return to my work and relationships, to guard against pursuing my own goals in any such way as makes room for the works of darkness, only seeking to do as much as can be done comfortably while wearing the armor of light.”

Finally, deSilva says that the Collect teaches humility by taking us to Christ and the humility of “his mortal life.”

Obviously the benefits of which deSilva speaks require time of silent reflection.  All of this can’t happen simply if the Collect is said by rote. Rather, it must be said, chewed upon, and consumed so that it becomes a part of us and our lives.  In this sense, even stealing prayers is a discipline.

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