It is hard for average people to muster the kind of confidence that Jesus expresses in his three-part lesson on prayer. Your kingdom come: The kingdom seems light years away. Give us each day our daily bread: People die of hunger all the time, even in affluent countries. Forgive us our sins: Forgiveness is the exception, certainly not the rule.
Several years ago I engaged in a public dialogue with a Roman Catholic theologian about prayers to the saints. I went into the discussion with my mind made up on the subject. We Protestants—especially we evangelicals—do not pray to anyone but God. Directing our prayers in any other direction is at best theologically confused and at worst idolatrous. I came away, though, a little less convinced that the theological case was as tightly shut as I had thought.
The prominent place of food and meals in the Bible may be surprising to us fast-food and take-out eaters. Back in biblical times, gathering and preparing food took time and occupied a significant part of Israel’s life. The danger of famine (due to natural calamities or crop failure) gave special importance to food. Water was drawn from a well or spring, not a faucet or commercial bottle. Bread was baked from scratch, and beans and lentils simmered for hours.
Prayers offered by strangers had no effect on the recovery of people who were undergoing heart surgery, a large and long-awaited study has found. And patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of postoperative complications. —Report in the New York Times, March 31
The meaning of intercessory prayer is often unclear to Christians, so it is not surprising that many outside the church also get confused about it. The confusion is evident whenever scientists seek to determine whether intercessory prayer has measurable benefits.
Some questions just will not die. “Why is there something instead of nothing?” is a perennial. Perhaps the second-most persistent question is this: “Is yawning contagious?” or “Why is yawning contagious?” The empiricists ask the first of these, the metaphysicians the second.
Christians throughout the ages have proclaimed that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb.13:8). The implicit teaching is that by being eternally the same, he is therefore divine: a Rock of Ages and, like the Father of Lights, beyond the shadow of changing. He is.
I was raised in a middle-class, suburban family for whom religion, like sex, was a taboo topic. My Uncle Paul, a monastic known as Brother Leo, would join us each year for Thanksgiving dinner, but we never offered grace for the meal. Uncle Paul was an oddity in his black suit and drab, community-owned sedan. But I sensed that spiritually he was on to something.
Where isn't there a resounding Christian voice protesting the Iraq war?
Dec 28, 2004
After the U.S. military began its assault on insurgents in Fallujah, we received an email from a reader asking, “And where are the churches?” The writer’s assumption was that churches should be rising up with moral outrage at the destruction of an Iraqi city and the forced evacuation of its citizens.