Here is a table that briefly compares the New View approach to prayer with some existing views, in order to bring out the New View. It is followed by a reflective piece.
Our approach to prayer depends on how we see ourselves relating to God and how our agendas link with God's agenda. The New View on prayer sees us as representing God in his world, working with him, with him dwelling in us and yet by no means obliterating our individuality.
|Current prayer||New View prayer||Notes|
"Lord, please give me X" |
"Lord, please do X"
"Lord, thank you that I am involved in your work and life here. |
I think I will need X"
|X is seen as desirable insofar as we believe it is part of representing God, rather than because we desire it. Also, we recognise that we might not know perfectly what is needed.|
|"Lord, thank you for giving us a good day"||
"Lord, we had a good day. |
Thank you that this can be part of your plan."
|That we had a good day is treated as a fact rather than a favour. What makes us thankful is not what happens to or around us, but that we are part of God's plan. c.f. "Rejoice not that the demons were subject to you, but that your names are written in the book of Life."|
|"Lord, please heal me / him / her."||
"Lord, thank you that healing is possible. |
May your holy name be honoured here and your kingdom increase here.
We would like you to heal this person."
|Healing and pain or disease are seen in its proper context, not as something we desire or detest, but as something that occurs in God's responsive world in its fallen state, and that we are called upon to suffer. But in the particular case of this person, we are convinced in heart not just head that God's kingdom would be advanced by heaing.|
|"Lord, you are wonderful to me." (c.f. the song)||
"Lord, you are always wonderful. |
Thank you for life with you."
|We are no longer the centre; God is.|
|"Lord, help me to do X"||
"Lord, thank you for the privilege of working your works for you. |
I think X is needed for this, though you know best.
Thank you that you will help me do X, or whatever is better than X."
|Doing X is believed to be what God wants. If God wants it then of course he will help us do it; no worries! So surely we don't need to ask him. Rather we thank him; that is faith. And, since we are his representatives, we are happy with whatever outcome happens, knowing that the Living God can bring good out of anything.|
|"Lord, please forgive me for X."||
"Lord, I have done / been X, and know it's wrong. |
I feel bad about this. But thank you that Jesus died to remove all condemnation.
Please do not let others suffer because of the wrong I've done; don't let it destroy your wonderful work or bring dishonour to you.
Instead, let me bear any harm, not others.
But I know I might be too weak to bear it; so I cast myself on Jesus, because I know that he can bear it for me."
There's a lot here, not all of which applies every time. |
Those who are Christ's are already forgiven, so it doesn't make sense to ask for forgiveness (even though we might feel like it). Rather, taking I John 1:9 and Romans 8:1 seriously, we can thank God for this. Redemption is rich.
However, the effect of our wrong-doing/being might harm others because of interconnectedness, and we don't want others to suffer. The desire of the heart is to bear the effect of our wrong, but we know that Christ bears it for us.
|"Lord, please show me the way to go / what to do."||
"Lord, thank you that I have the privilege of responsibility under you. |
I am not which way to go / what to do.
Thank you that you desire to bless whichever course I take.
But if one course is better in your eyes, please ensure I take that course; I am willing.
However, I know there is wrong in me, which distorts both my will and way of seeing things; I don't want that to influence my decision. "
Several issues here: open theology along with a heart surrendered to God and seeking first his Kingdom (Matthew 9:33). |
New View takes an 'open' view, recognising that responsibility involves choices, and that sometimes several choices are valid and the God's will is 'open'. That said, however, we can express our desire to do/go whatever our Father deems better. But this is our of love for him, rather than fear of doing the wrong thing, which fear often lies behind the prayer for guidance.
|"Lord, you are great! we worship you. We praise you."||
"Lord, you are great! |
Thank you for the privilege and joy of knowing you and living life with you."
|We don't need to tell God we worship him. Existing views often elevate worship as though we feel it is a demand of God that we worship him, which is not true. Rather our very thankfulness and living life with this wonderful God, representing him, declares and manifests his glory so that all creation (including people) moves towards worship.|
|"Lord, I give myself to you unreservedly."||
"Lord, I give myself to you unreservedly. |
Thank you that by doing so I can be a blessing to the world you love in a way that represents (and glorifies) you."
|The surrender is the same (see below) but what is behind it and what is the outcome of it differs. In existing views such as of Selwyn Hughes below it is linked with 'me' getting God's best; in New View it is linked with the other getting God's best through me / us.|
Why are the 'New View' prayers longer? Because here we have to express all the 'background' meaning of the prayer, which is tacit in the existing prayers. After a time, 'New View' praying might come to assume certain bits of meaning and no longer express them. Since thanking God that we are involved with him in his world, representing him, is common to many of them, it might be soon dropped and assumed. This would be a pity because it is the ground in which New View praying germinates and flourishes.
However, this makes it clear that much praying today is indeed undergirded by something like this 'New view'. We will see something of this in the Reflection below, when we look at certain people's views on prayer.
A good start in understanding a New View on prayer and its relationship with good existing views may be found in Selwyn Hughes, who says
"I see prayer then as a commitment to God, a self surrender, a giving of myself to him, not simply to get things from him, but because by the giving of myself to him ... I put myself in the way of getting all of God's best for me." [My Path of Prayer, p.45]
There are three things here. First, prayer is not to get things from God. Prayer is nor primarily request-making. Many would agree with this, and so does the 'New View' - except that sometimes in the context of representing God we do need things from him; see below.
Second, prayer is surrender. This is an insight, not unique to Selwyn Hughes, but nicely expressed by him. "I see prayer as self surrender." he ways, "It is a commitment to develop a relationship with God rather than just asking him for things." He sees surrender as "the law of life that runs through the whole universe." So, as Jesus said, "We must lose ourselves in order to find ourselves." In real prayer, we 'lose ourselves' to God. I don't think Hughes meant that we become insensible of ourselves, negating ourselves, in the way Buddhist, Hindus and some Christian mystics advocate, but rather that
"It is the petty self renounced so that the potential self might be realised. It is the wire surrendering to the dynamo, the flower to the sun, the branch to the vine. It is life surrendering to Life." [p.44]Are wires not energised by the dynamo? Do not flowers gain their growth and beauty and ability to bless bees and reproduce from the sun? Do not branches receive their very nourishment from the vine? Is this not Life in all its fulness of which Christ is the root? That is what surrender is. And it the way to "all of God's best for me". Prayer is surrender more than request-making. Prayer leads to self-realisation, "but before prayer can be self-realisaton, it must be self-renunciation."
A New View would modify this insight only slightly. Prayer is surrender - but surrender is more than prayer. Surrender is deeper, the reality of our heart-attitude. Once our hearts are surrendered to the Living God, then our prayer will express that surrender. In prayer we are happy with whatever God offers us, and see it is wonderfully more than we had hoped. Until our hearts are surrendered, prayer will be attempts to get things from God.
Third, the main motivation he gives for such surrender is that we get all of God's best for us. Prayer for self-realisation? This is different from the New View. Two problems with this: individualism and different view of God's cosmic plan. The way Hughes puts it, "getting all of God's best for me", is individualistic, and a number of people would criticise him for this, and want to replace "me" by "us". But changing that is not enough for the New View, because it is still too us-centred. The New View is centrally motivated, not by benefits to God's people, not even by benefits to human beings, but by blessing through humans of the whole of creation - which then redounds in blessing to human beings.
In the New View surrender to the Living God, and prayer-as-surrender, is part and parcel of being God's people who represent him. It is not an additional thing for the super-spiritual, but a necessary condition for representing God to other people. It is tied closely to Jesus being our Saviour and Master, to the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and to the Heavenly Father being 'Abba' to us. To the extent that we are surrendered to him, to that extent are these things actualized.
Related to this motivation, Selwyn Hughes begins his short piece with his saying that his ministry was revolutionized when he began a discipline prayer life of an hour every morning. For him, it seems, prayer in a certain quality and quantity is a necessary condition for spiritual blessing. From what he writes it is not just that prayer puts him "in the way of getting all of God's best for [himself]" but more: he sees it as a necessary condition for this. Does not this sound rather like a sophisticated version of prayer-as-getting-things-from-God? Experience and Scripture agree, however, that prayer is not the necessary condition. Much is recorded in Scripture as happening without any reference to prayer; if prayer were the all-important, necessary means to "all of God's best for me", then one would expect this to be stated much more clearly in the Bible than it is.
In the New View, prayer is not a necessary condition for anything. Rather, prayer is an outworking of our relationship with God. Prayer is a natural activity within of human lingual functioning. We humans are beings who want to express ourselves and communicate, including with our Creator and Saviour. The activity by which we fulfil this impulse to communicate with our Creator is what we call prayer. Prayer is surrender in the New View because by this we most truly are God's representatives, 'working with God' in his holy, wonderful, creation-blessing agenda.
This means prayer is not to be seen as a command nor even as a recommendation, but as a natural activity. Certainly, there are those who have shut off the natural desire to pray, but will they open it up in response to a command? The real problem with those whose prayer is limited is not lack of prayer but lack of love-surrender to the Living God. To urge us to pray more does little directly about the underlying cause. Except that it might remind us of something of God in a way that makes us seek him. But that is not guaranteed.
Prayer is the lingual part of working-with-God in the role of representing him. As such, it now becomes valid again to ask him for things. If they are things we believe we need for our working-with-him, then he will delight to give them. In fact, he will give more than we ask, because he delights to give us the privilege of representing him.
See also New View of the Lord's Prayer.
This page is offered to God as on-going work in developing a 'New View' in theology that is appropriate to the days that are coming upon us. Comments, queries welcome.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2010, but you may use this material subject to certain conditions.
Written on the Amiga with Protext. Number of visitors to these pages: .
Created: 9 July 2011 Last updated: 16 July 2011 table. 16 July 2011 tacit and links.