Pray this: “God…change my mind.”
C.S. Lewis once said this about prayer: “I don’t pray to change God’s mind. I pray to change my mind.”
In a recent article in “Christian Century” magazine, Rowan Williams discusses the important issue of prayer from the perspective of Origen, one of the early Christian writers. Origen died around the year 254. His death was brought about by the torture he endured in prison where he had been incarcerated because of his Christian beliefs. During his lifetime, he wrote a small book on prayer that included wisdom that has lasted for centuries.
Origen explains that even though God may already know an outcome, even though God may already know our hearts, even though God may already have a purpose in mind, prayer remains important. If it is God’s will to bring about some change for the better, prayer — individual and corporate — is a part of the cause that makes the change possible. Prayer, then, has great power, even when we have no awareness of that power.
Next, Origen gives some helpful how-tos. He states that we are to pray at least three times a day. At least 3 times. Next, Origen asserts that we must be reconciled to our brothers to be able to pray. We must be at peace with our fellow man to offer our gift of prayer. That seems like a tall order.
I recently spoke with someone who had survived a very difficult family life. I have no doubt that the environment of her childhood was difficult for her — not physically abusive, but very emotionally difficult. I have no doubt that it wounded her. One day she asked me directly, “You think I should reconcile with my family, don’t you?” A direct question required a direct response. “Yes,” I said, “I do. I don’t think you have to spend the night in their house. I don’t think you have to go to a movie with them every day. I don’t think you have to have dinner with them tonight. But, yes, I think you need to reconcile.” She does not talk to me any more. I can hardly blame her.
Henri Nouwen once said that we are to choose life. Choosing life, he suggested, involves opening our hearts and letting go of resentments. It involves asking ourselves — is my heart full of blessings or curses? Choosing life is choosing to bless — ourselves and others. That is the foundation for prayer.
Rev. Deacon Kitty Davis