Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pragmatism and "Praying about it"

Have you ever considered how incredibly odd a Christian must seem to a non Christian? If you are one of the 15% of Christians who converted as adult, then you likely have firsthand knowledge. But if you are one of the 85 out of 100 Christians who are "lifers," you may not be aware that you are weird.
You get excited about weird things, you behave in unexplainable ways, and you react in surprising ways to things that other people do not even notice.

And you say cryptic things, like:

...we don't know God's plan.
...he's just having a "wilderness" experience.
...I have a heart for worship. need to spend some time sitting at the feet of Jesus

Though most citizens of a christianized culture are probably familiar with these statements, they really don't really know what they mean. To be honest, I don't really think we know what they mean. Oh, we may know the bible answer, but I doubt we'd be able to explain the spiritual ramifications of these statements, even to one another.

Like me, you might find this amusing, but it actually does matter. Take, for example, the ever popular

I need to pray about it.

On the surface, this is a very wise statement. Of course we should pray about everything, we're taught that from childhood and it even says it in the bible (Phil 4:6). One of the cornerstones of the Christian faith is absolute dependence on God for direction in our life. So, obviously, when someone says they need to pray about it, it means they need to consult God before they make that particular decision.

Makes sense right?

Maybe, but think for a moment, if you will, about the times when we play this particular card:

...we're thinking about having a baby, but we need to pray about it...
...did you hear about that mission trip to Uganda? Sounds awesome! I'll have to pray about it...
...I'm thinking about going back to school, but I need to pray about it...
...we're thinking about sponsoring a child from Kenya, but I need to pray about it... need help in the children's ministry? I'll have to pray about it...
...I want to got to that party, but there's going to be alcohol. I should pray about it...
...the meals/hospitality ministry is really short on volunteers? Cool, I'll pray about it...
...the Red Cross needs money to help earthquake victims in Japan, but I think I need to pray about it...

In these situations, what does I'll pray about it, actually mean in practice? Why do you need to pray about it? How are you going to pray about it? What is the end result going to be?

I think I'll pray about it, is the Christian equivalent to We should have a meeting about it. It really should help you make a decision but, practically, it is just a way of avoiding making a decision. If you don't think so, think with me to all of the times you've said, "I'll pray about it," and then ask yourself how often you've actually prayed about it.

I mean an intentional, specific, pointed time of prayer. Did you seek advice from others? Did you look it up in the bible? If you said it in response to a request for help, did you ever get back to the person who asked?

Or was it just a way to get out of an uncomfortable situation long enough to forget about it so you could do whatever you wanted?

Pragmatism is a philosophy which basically states that the only solution to a problem is the one that actually works. When it comes to "praying about something," I admit, I get a little pragmatic: if it doesn't work, it's not a real answer.

And, to be honest, I sometimes feel there are a few things we really do not need to pray about. Please do not think that I'm saying God doesn't care or that we shouldn't care what God says about certain decisions. 

I'm saying that we don't need to pray about it because we already know the answer.

We know the answer, we just don't like it. Maybe we need to pray that God will help us make a decision more cheerfully or do something more willingly, but the question of whether or not we should do certain things is really not a difficult question.
What do you think? Are there times when we don't need to pray, we just need to do what we know is right?

Andrew Murray on Prayer Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire: What Happens When God's Spirit Invades the Heart of His People [FRESH WIND FRESH FIRE] When God's People Pray Participant's Guide: Six Sessions on the Transforming Power of Prayer (Zondervangroupware(tm) Small Group Edition) Practice Of Gods Presence (7 In 1 Anthology) The Practice of The Presence of God

And please, do pray.


  1. I agree! I have this not-so-worked out theology that I tinker with concerning "God's will." We like to use that phrase meaning that there's only one specific path that God wants us to take. In certain circumstances, that's true...God definitely reveals specifics at times, but not always. I think He gives us freedom to make choices as long as the important questions--"Does this glorify God? Am I doing anything contrary to what God desires for his children?"--are answered. Does that make sense?

  2. Thanks Megan, yes this is very true. I've often heard people say something to effect of: "God gave you a brain for a reason." While I agree with the principle of this statement, it always bothers me that they didn't have a scripture basis for that. I like seeing things in print, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

    Someone recently pointed out that this IS in scripture:

    For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7

    ..AND what do we need a "sound mind" for? Ohhhh I see... ;)