Tag Archives: what is prayer

Rethinking Prayer: Asking or telling? (Part TWO)

What do I think prayer is?

Well, this question cannot be answered without discussing what I think God is.  So, both questions will be looked at here, though not necessarily in any particular order…and I cannot say this will be an easy read.  These are complicated subjects, but if you apprehend the essence of what I mean then I’ll consider it a win for both of us.

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Prayer, or more specifically the answer thereto, is the necessary response of reality—specifically its underlying RATIONAL philosophical apparatus, and this apparatus is God.  In other words, God is reality as expressed, and as possible (efficacious), through the objective rational principles which utterly imply it.  Starting with an irreducible metaphysical primary (which can only be Ability, because existence must be active for it to be possible, and all action must be underwritten by the Ability to act), and proceeding through epistemology, ethics, etcetera, etcetera, where all the root philosophical premises (epistemological premise; ethical premise, etc.) proceeding from the metaphysical primary are corollary to promote, affirm, and reinforce the primary (and therefore themselves) thus creating  what I call the Great Corollary…or the Many Truths (the premises) from the One Truth (the metaphysical primary).

Now, I know this explication is pretty abstruse (though less so if you follow my blog) and this is a function of the complexity of the subject.  And the reason, in large part, for this complexity is because the church has spent almost the entirely of its existence avoiding the question.  The substitution of truth by the Church, you see, with equivocation, tarted-up logical fallacy (contradiction explicated as Truth), mysticism, pagan and neo-pagan syncretism, despotic absolutism and collectivist authoritarianism, emotional blackmail and outright blackmail, spiritual manipulation, excuse-mongering, and plain old lying, has made getting to the truth of what God is, and thus what is meant by prayer to God, exceedingly more complicated and enigmatic than it ever needed to be if we could have avoided the past two thousand years of the intellectual error of the sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists and fools who have traditionally comprised Christianity’s ruling (priest) class.

If you have spent any time in the Church you will know, unless you are a child or have the spiritual mind of a child, or are blinded by or thoughtlessly committed to the Platonist propaganda which passes for truth there, that there simply does not exist any actual definition of God anywhere therein whatsoever.  And you will understand that this is precisely why no one in the church really knows what prayer is, means, or how to do it.  Oh, for certain there are some mildly clever attempts to provide a meaningful answer to the question “what is God?”, like “he’s the Creator”, which in reality tells us not what he IS but what he DOES, and this only vaguely and insufficiently; or we might hear “he is the Alpha and the Omega (first and last)”, which only obliquely describes his nature and utterly omits the relevant practical implications of such a claim, and does not describe how such a label has any meaning beyond the mere figurative and/or poetic.  Alpha and Omega implies an infinity of being, which is fine, but what is required, and omitted, is how one reconciles the paradox of an infinite Agent manifesting as somehow distinct (finite) in reality. I am not saying that such a paradox cannot be resolved, just that the church has never done so…and will NEVER do so.

Next, of course, we have the extra-biblical assertion that God is a “Trinity”…the “Three in One”—whatever that means.  And don’t bother asking, because NO ONE knows.  If you do dare put on your hazmat suit and wade into the fetid abyss of Christian apologetics and ask about the “Trinity” you will get a smorgasboard of  equivocation amounting to, in practicality, a big fat shrug.  All explanations of the Trinity are designed to dazzle, not inform, because the church realized some five hundred years ago that explaining a rank contradiction in terms was impossible, even with all the divine clarivoyance of the whole medieval priest class, including the Pope with his magic tin can and string direct to God.  Back then, of course, demurring from the orthodox interpretation of God as Trinity was apt to get one murdered for heresy.  Today, murder is not the church discipline de jure, as much as the modern priest class would ABSOLUTELY embrace that power being that it is entirely consistent with Christianity’s doctrinal premises, however, disagreeing with the unbiblical notion of God as “Three in One” indeed marks you as an outcast and a troublemaker, unsaved and evil, denying even the most basic of God’s “truths”.

And here’s something else about the Trinity, as long as we are on the subject…and this relates to my overall point in the article here anyway.  I submit that the doctrine of the Trinity is a thinly veiled ADMISSION that Christian orthodoxy has absolutely no idea what God is or how to describe his nature.  Thus, a contradiction in terms (Three which is simultaneously One) has become the final word on God’s essence…and it is assumed that  this makes him somehow awesome as opposed to ridiculous.  We are supposed be inspired to literal and figurative prostration at the thought of our Creator as that which man cannot possibly fathom by any cognitive faculty or conceptual framework.

And herein lies the whole damn problem.

In an effort to make God astonishingly vast and complex, and thus to inspire man to worship and tremble at his feet, Christianity has instead made him a farce—an arrant joke—by placing him utterly beyond anything rational, and thus (and most abominable) playing straight into the hands of his those who mock and scorn his existence.  God defined as “Three in One” creates an interpretation of the Father which has been punted beyond man’s cognitive, conceptual, and intellectual frame of reference.  By defining God as a contradiction, Christianity has ensured that man cannot possibly apply the Father’s existence to reality in any way at all, making him utterly irrelevant to man, and exchanging practical and rational theology for mysticism, superstition, spiritual despotism, and willful ignorance; and making these things virtues whilst mocking, condemning, and murdering as heretics those who nurture a pure, holy, innocent, and RATIONAL desire to know him.

And finally, it would do us all well to remember that the madness known as the doctrine of the Trinity saw its Protestant canonization punctuated with murder when the scoundrel and false teacher, John Calvin, had Michael Servitus burned at the stake for rejecting it.  And this is the spiritual primordium from which today’s Christians claim to know God?!  I think not.  Look not to the church, my friends.  God is not known there.  The church has ghosts, but they are not holy.

Needless to say, then, since Christianity contains within all its disputations, catechisms, liturgies, and doctrinal interpretations no description of God which may pass for even a remedial or marginally realistic definition of the the nature of the Almighty, it clearly cannot provide a definition of prayer to him, nor how one should pray, nor what one should pray for, nor when, nor what one may expect with regards to its efficacy and outcomes.

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So what is prayer? Well, I will tell you…understanding that this is a summary.  Giving full attention to such a topic would, I think, necessarily fill volumes.

Prayer is an extension of man’s right not to be governed by deterministic cause and effect (cause and effect being purely an abstract rendering of what is an entirely relative relationship between objects when excluding the presence of the observer).  Prayer is an extension of man’s existence as a function not of abstract natural law, but of reason.  Reason extends beyond the mere physical/ontic parameters of the “laws of physics”, and demands that reality accommodate man’s RATIONAL will.  And this either by man’s physical OR metaphysical extension of himself.  That is, either by his hands or by his rational will—his understanding of his intrinsic right to witness his rational desires BEYOND those hands; that man’s will as it controls the object known as his body may likewise control ALL of that which is rationally obligated to affirm his absolute Self.  And because prayer is an expression of man’s categorical right to his own rational and absolute existence, he need not ask or entreat or beg or bargain with reality.  He commands it.  And then it shall obey.  God, you see, then, is not the worker of the effects of man’s prayer.  MAN, himself, is.  God, however, being an extension of the rational/moral (rationality and morality being corollary) existence of man (or, rendered more allegorically, he is Father and man is Son) is man’s PARTNER in manifesting the outcomes of that which is commanded.

END

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Rethinking Prayer: Asking or telling? (Part ONE)

Prayer is both a thing and a concept with which I have struggled for quite some time now.  Probably like you, I have had my share of answered prayers, and also my share of unanswered ones.  And this I think naturally leads one to consider the actual efficacy and legitimacy of prayer.  If we observe that prayer is only inconsistenty answered at best, then how can we not say that perhaps it is the mere cause and effect machinations of normal reality and is nothing of prayer?  I would think this not only reasonable but obvious.  If prayer only inconsistently effects change as we may observe it, then it’s logical to assume that what’s really going on has nothing to do with prayer at all, but is merely a matter of probability.

For example, I have chosen to fly on airplanes dozens of times, and I’ve prayed for each flight, and all have landed safely.  However, to call this an example of “answered prayer” is, in fact, quite a stretch of logic since statistics clearly show that the percentage of flights that crash is so very low relative to how many flights have taken place in history.  This makes “safe flight” much more likely a function of human engineering favorably manipulating the probability of a safe outcome rather than divine intervention.  The safety of the flights may have something to do with answered prayer, but how can one really know? The only way to know even mildly is if one observed that all his prayers were answered all the time…and even this would be logically subjective, but at least it would make a strong circumstantial case. Logically subjective perhaps, unless we are speaking strictly of the miraculous, but certainly compelling.

My thinking on the matter of prayer has  evolved through several iterations.  I went through the neophyte version of God-as-genie when I was a kid…but not quite so disrespectful as that sounds.  My prayers as a young person were never overtly  irrational…I prayed to be ignored by bullies at school—or, as I like to refer to them:  the bastard spawn of the mass dysfunctional family wreckage which hallmarks  the worst generation in history:  the Baby Boomers—to recover from illness, to do well on exams.  That sort of thing.  I remember God being quite gracious back then, but this is perhaps just the positive memories of childhood rising to the top.  Maybe God answered my prayers, but as I had no rational working definition of God back then (most Christians don’t, in fact) I really couldn’t say.

During my fifteen years as a neo-Calvinist in the cult of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) I brushed up against the congnitive dissonance of prayer as it relates to object and abject divine determinism.  This view of prayer makes it merely ritualistic, signifying nothing of any real efficacy, since all things are up to God anyway, so it goes, and he has already decided what to do with everyone, from birth unto hell or heaven, whichever you happen to get.  You’ll never really know until the day God disposes of you into one or the other eternal receptical.

Is that just a peach of a belief?  And yet this is where most Christains today tread water with respect to prayer…in this arrant folly of reason.  And don’t let them tell you they don’t actually believe this.  If you are BORN evil, which is precisely orthodox when it coms to the Christian interpretation of man’s nature, then you are entirely insufficient to any good thing, and this includes knowing the difference between good and evil.  And since this knowledge is the root of ethics (how man values what he knows), and ethics is inexorably tied to epistemology (how man knows what he knows), then the eradication of man’s moral compass by the doctrine of “original sin” completely wrecks man’s ability to know anything at all.  Thus, God must necessarily determine man to his eventual eternal destiny, regardless if he be “saved” or not, because man, once you tease out the doctrine to its logical conclusion, is utterly mindless.  You may go to church and follow all the commandments and abstain from all worldly temptations and throw out your television and excoriate the idea of modern technology as merely the devil’s distraction, but to think that you can know you are saved…that somehow you, who is rotten to core from birth, can know the mind of God and what his grand plan is for you is something that in a different time would have gotten you burned at the stake.

And thus you see the implicit evil behind the notion of prayer as merely a ritual we do because God commands it: salvation is not a thing the church can offer.  It’s a lie.  No one knows where they will end up, be they found in church on Sunday or in a whore house.  The advertisement that there is actual salvation to be gained in the church is the greatest bait-and-switch scam ever perpetrated upon man.

This abysmal version of prayer never really took hold in me.  I always found it terribly specious..and while I paid lip service to it, not wanting to cause a stir (SGM doesn’t take doctrinal disagreement with much levity…regardless of the degree, it’s pretty much stomped out with ferocity), I used to despise it when people would pray for me and top it off with “if it be thy will, Lord”.  Because that presupposed that God had already decided what should happen to me, and that what I wanted and intended was besides the point.  And this is the crux of what I want to talk about in this article.  The notion that what I desire for my life through prayer is infinitely subordinated to an outside will, even God’s, doesn’t sit well with me.  Not because I crave control, or lust sinfully and selfishly after what is God’s power alone, but because it is at root utterly irrational.  If God has predetermined for me my experiences, and possesses the ultimate veto on all my choices, and shall tell me whether or not my prayers contain any merit whatsoever, then what is the point of prayer?  What is the point of my having any ideas at all about anything?  God will do what God will do…my very existence then becomes entirely meaningless.  My mind is an illusion of a mind which cannot actually exist because it’s infinitely irrelevant.  And this is a contradiction in terms.  And I may not know everything about God, but I know this:  He cannot be God if his very existence is utterly incompatible to my own, or vice versa, and if what he asks of his children contradicts itself, thus rendering the very words he uses to communicate himself and his intentions utterly meaningless.

But even more superficial than all of that…I mean, we can get into the root philosophical contradictions, and that’s its own brand of fun, but we can put it in more pedestrian terms:  Would you continue to ask favors of someone who has told you to freely ask him favors if you never knew whether or not your favors would be granted; if there were all these stipulations about what could be asked for and when and how and that it really wasn’t going to be up to you and that you couldn’t be trusted to know what you really wanted or needed, and therefore the asking of favors became this tedious and exasperating task of self-examination and naval gazing and groveling and bemoaning your own infinite existential inadequacy and ignorance, and then when confronted with a desperate circumstance like a child with a terminal illness or the loss of a career or a sexual assault you found yourself groveling and prostrating yourself before this giver-of-favors, wailing and begging him to just this once give you relief; and then to forgive you for thinking what YOU want actually matters?  In other words, you are told to ask favors, but then told that you don’t possess the intrinsic wisdom or foresight to know which favors should be asked for.  So favor-asking becomes this giant farce…a facade of love.  Because the giver of favors is going to do whatever he’s going to do whether you ask for it or not.

Needless to say, most of us, if presented with such a clearly ludicrous waste of time would pass on it, and many of us wouldn’t hesitate to scold the snake oil salesman for his wicked deception.  Nevertheless, this is what prayer has become.  It is nothing more than the dance of a medicine man around the fire of primitive, polytheistic superstition.

So what, at root, is the error?  Okay.  Wait for it.  And prepare to be scandalized.

We ask instead of tell.  We politely request instead of demand an answer to our prayers, which I submit as children of God, with all the responsibilities and complexities and challenges that this implies, is our divine birthright.

Now hold on. Let me explain (in part two). This is not without its reason; it comes with much understanding and responsibility.  I promise, it is not a return to the genie in the bottle.

End (Part ONE)