Prayer Preferences

Posted August 9, 2010

Just as each person favors a certain lifestyle, preferred types of food, or choice of entertainment, so also every praying Christian has his or her own individually “personalized” modality of private prayer. It is morally imperative that we recognize that —every single form of prayer is good in the eyes of God, as long as it doesn’t involve anything heretical.

Yet many of these “prayerful” Christians look with disdain on others whose prayer forms differ from their own—somewhat like the Pharisee  belittling and denigrating the publican, in the parable of Jesus (Luke 18:11). Such arrogance negates the effectiveness of their own prayer when they deride the prayer that others find appropriate for them in their relationship with God.

The scriptural basis for this “open” acceptance of others’ prayer forms is fourfold: First, Paul’s mandate in Ephesians 6: 18. One translation says, “Pray as the Spirit leads you on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests.Secondly, the words of Jesus in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases…So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Thirdly, St. Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 2: 15 are appropriate: “The spiritual man makes his judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.” And fourthly, in Gal .6:4, Paul says, “Each one should test his own actions; then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.”

Peter’s advice is timely: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (I Pet. 4: 10). Such gifts include the gift of prayer. And he may have had in mind those “xenophobic” Christians who isolate themselves from others whose prayer style differs from their own, when he wrote, “Live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers and sisters, be compassionate and humble…to this you were called, so that you may inherit a blessing”(1 Pet. 3:8-9).

John H. Hampsch, cmf