Monday, October 24, 2005

Playing with One's Self

Well, as per usual, I haven't posted for a significant period of time, and I can't make good on my promises to post more regularly. So, no promises this time. Don't bother leaving nasty notes. I know I'm bad.

Anyhow, I think the purpose of prayer, in answer to Joe's question, is to bring one closer to God. You have to think of Him in order to bring yourself closer to his will, and you have to invite him into your life in order to know him.

There appear to be different types/forms of prayer. Some people live and work in silence, engaging in active prayer through work. For some people prayer can be verbal, and it can take a specific chant-like form, i.e., Nicene or Apostles Creed and/or nonstructured form. Structured prayers often tell a story of the christian faith. For example, consider the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God,
the father, the Almighty,
maker of Heaven and Earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
True God from True God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Creed attempts to summarize the tenants of Christian beliefs, and in essense rejects/excludes other ideas as unwholesome and philosophically unsupportable. For example, Jesus is True God as much as God is true God because they are one--hence, a mystery is born.

I pray because I want to know Him.


Odious said...

I was under the impression that the Nicene Creed was not so much a prayer as a profession of faith. It's not asking the intercession of God, for example, but rather stating that we believe that such intercession is possible. I assume that as part of your baptism you were catechized; I had always felt that the Nicene Creed was essentially much the same.

Prayer seems to me not simply an effort to know God, but also a request for gifts and grace--which I admit is often the same thing. "Give us this day our daily bread" is useful not because God doesn't know that we need bread, but because it gives definite form to our desires. We pray for very concrete things, even very materialistic things, like bread or health. We also pray that we may avoid evils.

And for the salvation of those who have died, that they may have a place in His heavenly kingdom.

This is not so much contrary to your position as it is tangential or unspoken. Just making explicit, not leaving nasty notes!

Voracious Reader said...

Your statement is well taken.

I have no disagreements with you whatsoever concerning what form prayer usually takes or why we pray, but I would say that the Creed, while certainly a profession of faith, is also prayer.

The Nicene Creed is a profession of the mystery of faith, but it's also a prayer according to many theologians. As St. ThéRèse of Lisieux wrote in Manuscrits autobiographiques "For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.

I guess I always thought of creeds as summarizing the gifts that God has given man and the gifts he will continue to give man, by saying "I believe." Gratitude through acknowledgement etc.

Another summarization would be as St. Ambrose said, "This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart's meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul."

If one defines prayer as meditation on God, then I think the Creeds would qualify. If prayer has to be asking for something, then they wouldn't.

Can working be a form of prayer? If yes, how then?

Odious said...

Hmmm. I find myself agreeing with you about the nature of the Nicene Creed: that it is essentially a prayer. I think the rest of our argument is taxonomic.

I'm hesitant to allow a word which for me possesses a specific meaning ("requesting gifts or grace") to spread out into other realms. While one can certainly work worshipfully and in a Christ-centered manner, I'd rather not call that "prayer". That sort of word creep leads to confusion.

Just as a gentleman was once someone of gentle birth, but came to mean anyone who obeyed certain social strictures, and then simply a compliment of little specificity, I worry that "prayer" so used would lose the rather more definite meaning it now possesses.

Still, your mileage may vary, and I'd be the last to dispute an author's right to define her own terms.

Voracious Reader said...

Disagree away with me when I use or define words improperly (that goes for grammar, mechanics, and style too! AuthorSmauthor. I shouldn't get to misuse words. I wont become a better writer without being criticized.

I think I agree with you about the general dangers of defining prayer too broadly.

It seems like a slippery-slope arguement you're using--namely, that because of the way that I defined prayer virtually anything done while thinking about God would be a form of prayer. I'm not sure I could buy that, it seems to new-agey and relativistic for me. And, I think you're right. That would be where logic would take us given my definition.

P.S. I feel like a boob, because I'm unable to understand the last sentence in y'all's comment.