Prayer is one of the foundations of the Christian faith and for some time I have been thinking about prayer and the forms that prayer takes. In Protestantism, prayer takes the form of a conversation in which we literally speak to God with words and sentences. It is like a running conversation.
There are “formulas” that can be followed, too. The best known was given by Jesus, Himself, when the disciples asked Him how to pray. There are also formulas which man has devised for prayer. The one I remember most is the ACTS style which is an acronym for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. This is a good style to follow, because it affirms God as our sole source of sustenance and Lord of our life (Adoration); we confess that we are sinful and ask for His forgiveness (Confession); we praise Him for all he does for us (Thanksgiving) and finally; we present our petitions of need to Him (Supplication).
But lately, in my own prayer life, I have been feeling that I am doing all the talking and not letting God speak to me. I fear that I have run-of-the-mouth and that does not allow a conversation to take place – all I am doing is treating God like a vending machine, asking for stuff and then saying goodbye.
And this brings me to …
There is another tradition which comes out of the Catholic Church called contemplation. From what I understand it has not been widely used in recent years except in a monastery setting, but some in the church have been working to re-introduce it. This has not always been received in a positive light – especially when the prayer method appears to be borrowed from another religion.
One priest in particular promotes using a word to bring the pray-er back to his primary objective of focusing on relationship with God. This is, I think, where the internal radar of people have alerted them that an influence that has come from outside the teachings of Jesus and that perhaps it is an infiltration of heresy into the faith. The suggestion of this technique conjures up images of the repetition of a mantra or empty words.
My question is this: Do you think it is okay to look to other religions for techniques or methods that can be incorporated into our own prayer life to help us in our relationship with God? Can we learn something from the Buddhists – not about what our God is like – but about quieting the mind so that we are better able to hear what God has to say to us? Keep in mind that I only want to focus on prayer with this question.
If you disagree – that’s fine. Let me know why, if you are able, (I know that sometimes there is a sense of unease that a person just can’t explain but ought to be heeded – and that’s okay too).
If you agree – I’d also like to know why. Why do you not think it is a danger or if there are some dangers, what are they and how can we guard against them?
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