Thursday, April 29, 2010

Terribly Disturbing Doctrine of Prayer

Today I encountered a terribly disturbing doctrine of prayer.  The pastor who posted it imagines this to be godly and helpful.  But it is not the doctrine of the Holy Spirit that He teaches.  Far from it, it is the concoction of one who openly admits that he does not understand how to pray.  The post is entitled, Praying Alone.

Here are the opening statements of the post:

Jesus often spent time praying alone. Throughout the Scriptures we can find pictures of men and women who would go up on a mountain, meditate on God’s Word, and pray. There is great benefit in sitting back, removing yourself from the commotion and distractions of life, and hear what God has to say in His Word, and speak to Him in prayer about what troubles you, confessing your sins, and giving thanks for His mercies.

This is true. I know it is true. But I must admit that I don’t find this a natural practice for me.

To hear this from a pastor is very, very troubling to my spirit.  This poor man lives in a state of depression, according to his other writings.  He finds his life to be dark much of the time.

What he states above is the reason why.  This is very, very sad.

What is even more troubling is his fourth and final word of advice on prayer:

Remember that Christ prays for you even when you don’t pray. If you forget to pray for a day, be at peace! Christ prays for you even when you forget. Jesus is loving and forgiving, and longs to be in your presence. He will pray for you even if you don’t.

This is horrible!  It is absolutely false and destructive!

“If you forget to pray for a day, be at peace!” ???

Are you joking?  Be at peace?  How can I be at peace when I have turned aside from the only source of peace?  How can I be at peace knowing that I have cut myself off from God’s Holy Communion to such a degree that I don’t desire to pray for an entire day?

If this happens to a saint, if one who is baptized realizes that this has happened, the first thing to do is to stop everything and fall to one’s knees and call out, “O Lord, help me!”

Prayer is not something that one tries to do.  It is something that one does!  Trying to pray is ludicrous.  Just do it!  That is how prayer works.

Why pray?  Why did Jesus pray?  He prayed because He needed to hear from the Father.  That is what prayer is all about.

Consider what may perhaps be the most intense prayer ever prayed, the prayer of the Lord Jesus in His time of deepest distress and desperation:

My God!  My God!  Where the hell are You?

That prayer allowed Jesus to hear that the Father had not gone anywhere.  The prayer, prayed from the perspective of the blindness of our sinfulness, gave the immediate relief that Jesus needed.  Notice how His prayer began: “My God!”  That was the answer that He needed to hear.  And He did hear it so that He later prayed, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit!”

I don’t have time this morning to do justice to this, but I want to convey at least this much: STOP TRYING TO PRAY!  Prayer is not from you but from God.  It is the outflow of faith, which is God’s gift.  When you need to pray (which is always, by the way) just do it.

If you need a list to remember what you need to include in your prayers, then those things are not really on your heart as genuine needs anyway.  Begin with what is on your heart right now.

If you need a list, the Lord Jesus gave us the Our Father and said “pray this.”  He also gave us the Catechism, that is, the 10 Commandments, the Creed, the Our Father, Baptism, Confession, and the Holy Supper of His Holy Communion.  Pray these.  The General Prayer of the Church in TLH on pg. 23 is also a wonderfully inclusive prayer.

Prayer is not hard.  It is as easy as recognizing that one has been baptized into God’s Holy Communion where God has named us as His beloved children, children whom He has commanded to use His name in faith, calling upon Him in every trouble, praying, praising, and giving thanks.  If something goes badly, call out to Him.  When things go well, give thanks.  When temptation comes, pray for help.  When sin overcomes, pray forgiveness and believe His promise that you are forgiven in Christ Jesus.

Don’t forget the “Amen!”  If you cannot say “Amen” to what you have prayed, keep praying till you can.  The Lord will lead you into the awareness of His will if you keep praying until you know that what you have prayed is according to His good and gracious will.  Don’t end your prayers with “If it be thy will.”  Notice how Jesus prayed.  He prayed “if it can be” and “if You are willing” but He kept praying until those temptations went away.  Yes, Jesus was sorely tempted to pray these things, but He did not enter into sin by continuing in these temptations.  He did not say “Amen” to them.  He kept praying until He fully acknowledged the will of the Father and said, “But not My will, but Thine be done!”  To this He could confidently say “Amen” and then rose up and went with joy to face the trials and the beatings and the injustice of the cross.

Pray, dear friend, until AMEN is all that is left to say.  Then, you won’t have to convince yourself that you have God’s peace, for God’s peace will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.


Rev. Todd Peperkorn said...

Have I done something to offend you somehow? I really don't even know where to begin with the number of half-truths, twisted statements, and rank legalism here. I am very happy to engage in a real conversation, but if you choose to turn every statement I make into an accusation that I don't understand the distinction between Law and Gospel, I don't really know where to go with that.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...


I did not post a comment on your blog for this very reason. I knew that you would only come back with nondescript accusations. I knew that you would only react rather than listen, and then you or someone else would attack me with nonsense.

If I have stated a lie, i.e., a half-truth, show me that I may repent. I have not twisted any of your statements, as I quoted them directly and in their context, even linking to the original post so that others could read the entire post. Rank legalism is what I am countering, the rank legalism of trusting one's own efforts at prayers, and then in despair telling oneself that one can be at peace with not praying for an entire day rather than repenting and turning to God in prayer for the peace that only He can give.

Few people even read my posts. Your best move is to ignore me, unless you really believe me to be teaching falsely and want to help me see where I have sinned against God and His Word and the Faith. If you really believe that I have done this, show me.

You may want to review what Luther writes on this matter before coming after me.

You may also want to consider that you are the one confessing that prayer is lacking in your life. You are the one saying that you find it hard to set aside your worship of mammon long enough to worship God in prayer.

Perhaps I may actually have something to offer you, and others. Perhaps you may want to ponder my statements on prayer before responding further.

For now, I must go off to work in the trees and fuss with God about the pneumatos seemingly fighting against me, only to be led to acknowledge that I need to be working with the wind instead of against it.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Todd,

Your opening question to me was: “Have I done something to offend you somehow?”

Since I had plainly stated the things in your blog post that offended me, things that lead people to a false view of prayer and the Holy Communion of the Lord, I did not really hear what you were saying. It took me a couple of days of wrestling with this matter before I realized what you were really saying.

It took thinking of you continually from the time of your response until yesterday afternoon before my ponderings and my prayers made sense to me. If I am hearing you openly now, you are asking why one who was formerly your brother, one whom you know still cares deeply for you and about you, would write so strongly and harshly about what you are teaching. If I am hearing you now, you are asking why I would say things that would cause you to feel hurt and injured.

There is nothing more defining of a person than his theology. I have attacked your theology and thus I have attacked you. This hurts, deeply and intensely. You likewise have attacked me with your writings and with your continuance in a church body that has embraced false doctrine and practices hypocritically. You continue to pledge yourself to a church body that openly persecutes Christ and His Church. This is open and manifest sin and it infects your theology. I continue to cry out against these things. When I encounter them in my own life, I repent of them. When I encounter them elsewhere I cry out in warning. There is no nice or gentle way to do this. It hurts. It always hurts.

Since you asked your question on this blog, I have answered here as well. It seems to me that in the future I should only make direct reference publicly to posts with which I agree, and address other matters simply as observations. Perhaps this would not give the impression of a personal attack on the writer.

For the ways that my own negligence and sin have caused you unnecessary injury, I pray your forgiveness. And again, if you do indeed believe that I have misrepresented the Lord and His Church and Faith, please show me that I may repent.

With utmost sincerity,

~ Paul