Monday, June 04, 2007

Prayer is a waste of time

Today's column shares my reflections on prayer. Don't be intimidated or put off by the title until you read the article. :)


carrie said...

Julie, your column made me cry. I love it. Prayer has always been a stuggle for me. I too have felt strange and self-conscious. Lately, the written, classic prayers of the church seema form of worship instead of a laundry list. I do pray extemporanious prayers, like yours with your dd (my two dd's insist on one nightly), but I send them without expectation, and that feels right for me.

Ampersand said...

I truly love every word of that column!

It is so simply true, that at its core, and no matter what our theology, prayer is the utterance of our hearts. Joy, yes, there is joy.

SusansPlace said...

oh my....I hear you.


TiaDavidandourLittleChickens said...

"prayer is the poetry of the soul". Beautiful. And thanks for your encouraging words yesterday! They blessed me.

Kansas Bob said...

Wasn't sure where you were going and then I read ...

"Prayer is the poetry of the soul. Unnecessary and utterly important. It's like the vial of perfume wasted over Jesus' feet. Always a luxury, always an extravagance, always a waste. It changes nothing and everything at the same time. We can't help but long for, hope, wish ... pray."

... made my day Julie ... poetry of the soul indeed!! I just had to link to it.

codepoke said...

I linked over here from Kansas Bob's site.

I loved the honesty of the beginning of your column, and Bob had already quoted the glorious conclusion, so I knew I loved the ending. It's the middle that broke my heart.

> I haven't prayed for years.

I've been there.

I'm so glad you can be straight about things about which you should be straight. That's cool. I know God appreciates an honest heart more than any prescribed action, so praise the Lord.

If you will forgive me, I am going to take a crack at the real reason for prayer. We pray to advance the kingdom. And I don't mean evangelism, either.

Jesus said the kingdom had come in Him, but when it came it looked an awful lot like 12 guys with a dead leader who had just taken on the world's largest empire and lost. Within 40 years it was hundreds of dead guys who had taken on that same empire and lost. In fact, the only times the kingdom of God has ever looked like it was winning, were times that it was probably just becoming a kingdom of men.

The kingdom was winning all along, though.

Love was proving itself stronger than strength in a hundred ways. The prophecies all say Jesus will rule over kings. I know it's fashionable to say that those prophecies are waiting to be fulfilled, but look closer. Jesus loved while those kings hated, and it worked. Jesus won. Rome fell, and Christ's church ascended above it. Love is changing the world even now.

When we pray we want to see disease fall. We want to see marriages saved, finances restored, and children given hope. What if those things happen sometimes, but love happens every time. What if the act of loving God and loving sinners out loud in prayer is in itself the heart of the battle? What if the act of praying, and expressing a dependence and trust for a God Who is pointedly not delivering us is the very work of the kingdom, and the very way it conquers?

It's not just that we found peace because we prayed, or that we are glad we did. No. We lobbed mortar shells into the enemy camp, and blew up their lies. They said if God let our treasures be taken away we would fold up and abandon God. Instead, we declared that though we die yet will we trust Him.

We are living in microcosm the story of the church versus Rome. And though we suffer a thousand little martyrdoms, we love. We love our enemies. We love our brothers and sisters. But mostly, we love the God Who delivers us in ways and at times that we do not choose nor understand.

May the Lord bless you and your family.

julieunplugged said...

codepoke, thanks for stopping by. Your heartfelt urgency and passion for the KoG is palpable. Thanks for sharing it.

brian said...


I love your way with words. Nice article. Really made me think.

Prayer... Wow. Do I pray? I can't really say anymore. I'm not sure what prayer is. The answer could be yes, could be no.

If prayer is sending up to a request for G-d to accept or reject, the answer is "no". I haven't prayed that way in years. But, if prayer is being still listening and sending out good intentions, yes, I pray often.

I heard a story recently concerning Mother Theresa. I don't recall the story exactly. But, when asked how she prayed, she said something like "I just mostly listen." And, when asked what G-d says, she said "He just mostly listens." For me, prayer has become more like that. Just sitting in G-d's presence. When someone asks me to pray for them (I rarely makes requests for myself), I send them good intentions, love and peace from my heart.

As my view of G-d has changed over the years, so has my view of prayer. I guess I would still say I pray. But, if you asked me how I'd find it very difficult to put into words because my prayers really aren't in words.

NoVA Dad said...

Julie, this is a phenomenal column, and I'll be sharing it with folks over on my blog.

Prayer for me has evolved over the course of my life, from the praying every night for my family and friends as a child to the selfish prayers of high school (God, let me pass tomorrow's big test; God, let so-and-so say she'll go out with me), then through a phase where I didn't pray at all, to the current phase in my life where prayer to me is more of a conversation with God. For me, as you alluded in your column, many of the prayers that we say tend to lose meaning after a while because we do them from memory as a part of Sunday services or evening family time.

Not that the answer to my prayers is going to be any different, but I take my prayers to God (when I do pray) as someone who would take a request or a plea for help to a friend or family member. I see God more as someone wanting to be the friend who wants to hear you and help you rather than the friend you're bowing down to. Not the most traditional view, I'm sure, but then again my traditional views have changed as I've gotten older.

Steve said...


Wow. "Blasphemy" and grace, all in one essay. You are remarkable. You must write a biography of your life; from Morocco to Ohio, infinity and beyond!

Part of me echos your thoughts, and part of me wants to shout, "No! You have it wrong!".

Nevertheless, you remain my Bruin pal, and an inspiration. How do you like that for an ambiguity. I am getting better at that in my middle age.

Peace, in Jesus name!

R. Michael said...


I palpably feel the tension between belief and unbelief in much of your writing and I think this one in particular expresses it well.

In the context of prayer this tension comes sharply into focus due to the private and personal nature of prayer and how the practice of it uniquely expresses what we think about faith and God.

Thanks again for writing what so many of us feel and think...but, in our "christian" forums, have no place to express without fear of the heretic, false teacher brand.

julieunplugged said...

r. michael: I like this summary so much:

In the context of prayer this tension comes sharply into focus due to the private and personal nature of prayer and how the practice of it uniquely expresses what we think about faith and God.

Expresses it well.

Dave said...

r. michael, if you are looking for a forum to discuss what you think and feel from an "alternative" perspective vis a vis what you find in most "christian" groups, I invite you to check out the pomoxian list that I moderate. It's not for everyone, but maybe you would find it useful. Julie provides a link a little further down on her blog, a few entries earlier.

BTW, nice column (again), Julie. You're courageous to take this one on (prayer, that is.) You get to the blunt reality of it without getting too analytical or dismissive - at least, according to my tastes.

Davis said...

Poetry of the Soul - yeah and like all poetry, like all art - it must be allowed to blossom.

Thanks for this Julie!