Do You Pray as a Theist or as a Christian?

10 12 2008

In The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser has a section on how we ought to pray. To pray as a theist – one who believes in a god, but not one that is necessarily present and active in the world – is to offer a prayer and wait for this god to intercede.

On the other hand, Rolheiser’s understanding of prayer is deeply rooted in the incarnation – God’s physical presence on earth, among us. He explains that the incarnation began with Jesus, but that it has never stopped. The incarnation did not end with Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. God’s presence is still as physical and as real as it was with Jesus – only in a different way.

The expression “the Body of Christ” is used in the Scriptures three different ways:
1) the historical person, Jesus;
2) the Eucharist (Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Bread and the Cup, etc.); and
3) the body of believers – the Christian community.

“To say the word ‘Christ’ is to refer, at one and the same time, to Jesus, the Eucharist, and the community of faith.” God’s presence refers to each of these forms.

So he says that when we pray, “not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves, as part of the Body of Christ, with some responsibility for answering the prayer. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

He gives some examples:

  • – If my mother is sick and I pray that she gets well, but don’t drive her to the doctor, I have prayed as a theist, not as a Christian.
  • – If a colleague or friend looks depressed and I pray for her, but don’t speak to her, I have prayed as a theist, not as a Christian.
  • – If I pray for a close friend, but don’t send him a postcard, email, etc., I have prayed as a theist, not as a Christian.
  • – If I pray for world peace, but do not, inside of myself, forgive those who have hurt me, how can God bring about peace on this planet?

“Our prayer needs our flesh to back it up.”

Do you pray as a theist or as a Christian?

Rolheiser, Ronald. The Holy Longing. New York: Doubleday, 1999.

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One response

11 12 2008
Phil

Makes me think…I believe I do a little of both.
I could probably do a little more of the encouragement cards (your 3rd example).

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