The Church's Irrational Debate over Homosexuality

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 22 October 2003 0 Comments
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What titles do I use for God when I pray? Does prayer do any good?


I am amazed at how frequently questions of prayer arise. My sense is that prayer is the place in people's lives where they actually define God. As that definition of God is challenged by new knowledge or when it wavers in the face of a new consciousness, the questions about prayer become constant.

I do not think that it matters what titles you use for God in your prayers. It only matters as to what these titles mean to you. I am amazed, for example, that Christian prayers seem to assume that God enjoys being flattered. So we call God by a variety of titles: 'Almighty,' 'Most Gracious,' 'All Loving,' 'Most Merciful,' 'Creator of all things,' etc. We also tell God in our prayers what we hope is true about God! "You are more ready to hear than we to pray," or "You are more eager to forgive than we deserve." This, we need to be reminded, is our human language, it is not God's language. It is created out of our needs not out of God's needs. The questions that we never ask are: "What does this language say about us?" That is where our inquiry ought to focus. We are not describing God, even in our prayers, we are defining our needs and giving voice to what we believe are our experiences.

Does prayer do any good? Once again, that assumes that you want your prayers to accomplish your will. Since that is not the purpose of prayer, I don't see how one can proceed to answer such a question. I pray daily. I claim nothing for it. I believe it opens me to God. There is nothing more than I can say with confidence. Those who presume that they have answers are simply delusional.

-- John Shelby Spong




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