Prayer and Faith

Continuing with comments on Jacques Philippe’s book on prayer: Time for God

As we saw in the last post, Philippe suggests that advancement in prayer is not accomplished by the application of prayer techniques. This is because the life of prayer is ultimately a gift from God not a result of human effort. Rather than techniques there are heart attitudes that make us more ready for the reception of the gift of prayer.

We should not be surprised the first heart disposition that Philippe presents is faith. The author defines faith as “the ability for the believer to act, not on impressions, prejudices, nor ideas drawn from one’s surrounding, but on what the word of God says, that word which cannot lie.” We often do not feel that God is present or active during our prayer. Faith is acting on what God has said about his presence and action.

Philippe names three specific areas in which we must have faith in prayer:

  1. Faith in God’s presence. He cites Matthew 6:6 where Jesus promises that when we pray in secret our “Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
  2. Faith that we are called to meet God in prayer and that God gives us the grace necessary to do so. Prayer is not for the super-spiritual. God has called all of us to meet with him in prayer and what God calls us to do he gives grace for us to do.
  3. Faith in the fruitfulness of a life of prayer. When we pray and things don’t seem to happen it is easy for us to believe that prayer doesn’t work, that the slogan “Prayer changes things” is misleading. Philippe writes:

When we don’t see the fruits (of prayer) as quickly as we would like, it is tempting to give up on prayer. This temptation should be rejected immediately by an act of faith that the divine promise will be fulfilled in its time. “Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your heart, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)

“But what if I don’t have much faith?” you ask. “How can I persist in prayer when I don’t have much faith?” The answer, paradoxically, is prayer! We share the simple cry of the father whose demon-possessed son Jesus healed: “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

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