As I’ve mentioned before, prayer is not what makes us Christian. In some way, all people pray. And while there is comfort in actually breathing a sigh under our breath to whichever god we think listens (does this mean a narcissist prays to themselves?), sometimes we may suspect a professional is needed.
This is quite evident in Thailand through the animistic nature of their Buddhism. For example, they believe spirits inhabit the land, so before they can build, which displaces the spirit, they need to appease it, and seek its blessing by providing a “spirit house” for the displaced spirit to inhabit. But this kind of ceremony requires skill—a professional.
Just this week we witnessed such a ceremony out our back window. Preparing to build behind us, the family had hired a Buddhist nun to pray and make preparations for these timid worshippers to bring the proper sacrifices in hopes the spirit/spirits would give them a building permit.
The event took most of the day with set up, bringing sacrifices, praying (think chanting to music), erecting a spirit house, and then packing up the nun’s van for the next event. As a side note, quite a few families have begun to build in our neighborhood so this nun has been quite busy.
It’s easy to look at this ceremony and simply dismiss it as pagan, which is true, but not helpful. I think we need to ponder these events a bit more because frankly, Christians do it too.
Now, before you write me off as having lived too long under the influence of raw paganism, think with me a minute. Are we really any different? Is it possible that we too, rely on ‘professionals’? When we go to church without having spent much time in the Word on a regular basis, aren’t we basically handing our prayer and devotional life to the professional we pay weekly by dropping a few dollars in the offering plate?
When we think no further than the latest question Kay Arthur or Beth Moore asks in their study guides, aren’t we relying more on the professional to do the thinking and pondering for us? I call it ‘fill in the blank spirituality’. And as a friend once asked me, “what happens once I fill in all the blanks? Does it mean I’ve arrived?” Hardly. Yet, I can’t help but wonder whether this isn’t a quiet belief that drives the industry.
The question here is not whether we need pastors who pray for us. The real question is whether we take God’s invitation seriously to come boldly to the throne of grace… ourselves.
“So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body. So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.” (Heb. 10:19-22, MSG)
I suggest we take time this week to sit with an open Bible, our journal, and soak a bit in His Word, His Presence, and our own thoughts. Granted, sometimes the silence is painful but in the end, it is deeply productive.