Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Origin of Prayer

Image: Adrienne von Speyr (public domain)
In The World of Prayer, Adrienne von Speyr has a fantastic passage on the root and origin of prayer in which she considers prayer from a very unique angle: as the fruit of a damaged relationship between God and human beings. It's worth reading in full, and ends with a great argument for regarding the Lord's Prayer as the real "sinner's prayer". One of my favourite passages in the book.

'At root every conversation with God is an embarrassment, a substitute for a much deeper mutual understanding. If we had not sinned it would have been natural to love God and respond to him. In Paradise God asks no questions of Adam; Adam lives simply in God's sight in faith and happiness, and everything he does corresponds to God's purposes. "You shall have dominion," God says to him; no answer from Adam is recorded. It is natural for him to understand God's word and carry it out. It does not occur to him to ask, "O God, how can I have dominion over the animals, and how shall I set about it?"
'God does not question man until after the Fall: "Adam, where are you?" Only now begins the dialogue as between two estranged subjects, which we today call prayer: something which, at some point or another, has its basis in a bad conscience, which draws the best conclusions still possible from a baneful fact, which aims to bring those who are estranged back to God again.
'Thus, in the Our Father, the Son takes sin into consideration. If there were no sin we would not need to say "Hallowed be thy name," for God's name would always be hallowed; nor "Thy kingdom come," for it would be here; nor "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," for God's will would be carried out equally on earth and in heaven. It would be superfluous to ask for daily bread, for all that God had created for man, even before creating him, would be available. And the remaining petitions would not apply...'

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