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Miserable sinners that we are, we'd sooner reach for the whisky than venture a prayer
Daily Telegraph ^ | December 13, 2003 | Adam Nicolson

Posted on 12/13/2003 1:09:28 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife

Prayer, for most of us in this country, now seems, if anything, a little odd, if not embarrassing. You have only got to visit, for example, the US Presidential Prayer Team website, to feel your English eyebrow rising. It is an organisation that claims to be 2.8 million strong, and which prays every day via the internet for the wellbeing of the Bush Administration and all its policies.

And when I say all, I mean all. Yesterday, for example, we were invited to pray not only for the American businesses that were opening up new branches in Iraq; for James Baker, who has been charged with restructuring the Iraqi debt; for the President himself and Mrs Bush during the large number of Christmas parties they will be holding in the White House; for Treasury Secretary Snow "and his team as they work to combat identity theft in America"; but also to "give thanks for the excellent service of Secretary Mel Martinez as he has led the Department of Housing and Urban Development". We were urged to "pray for wisdom for the President and his advisers as they seek a new candidate to lead this important department".

Praying for the American government, it turns out, could well be a full-time occupation. But why does all this strike us as a little absurd? In the long historical perspective, of course, it is our radically secularised society that is the anomaly, not the Americans. Most societies at most times have been happy enough to bind together the idea of prayer with the most mundane, business-like realities of life. And most of them still are.

The Dalai Lama has said recently that putting the famous mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" on your hard disk drive will have exactly the same effect as a traditional water- or wind-driven Buddhist prayer wheel. "As the digital image spins around on your hard drive, it sends the peaceful prayer of compassion to all directions and purifies the area." Since a hard disk spins at about 5,400rpm, that endlessly repeated prayer will soon rid the entire house or maybe even your whole street of any negative karma. Do it now!

Is this mad? If it is, the English have been mad for most of their history. Repetitive restatement of formulaic prayers was our habit for centuries. Take, as an example, the great 17th-century divine Lancelot Andrewes, bishop in turn of Chichester, Ely and Winchester, Privy Counsellor, heavyweight European player, engaged in major theological disputes with Catholic theologians across the Continent, leading translator of the King James Bible, fluent in 15 modern languages and six ancient, and James I's favourite preacher. The king, who thought he had "sparkles of divinity about him", used to sleep with the text of Andrewes's sermons under his pillow. Andrewes, in other words, was as involved in the political, intellectual and administrative life of his time as it was possible to be.

But the foundation of this great, witty, powerful man's life was prayer. Every morning, he spent five hours alone on his knees. He once said that anyone who visited him before midday clearly did not believe in God.

The manuscript copy of his own private prayer book, which he left to Archbishop Laud, was "slubbered with his pious hands and watered with his penitential tears". That was no exaggeration. Those who knew him had often witnessed his "abundant tears" as he prayed for himself and others. And just to drive this point in, this was Andrewes's own view of himself: "For me, O Lord, sinning and not repenting, and so utterly unworthy, it were more becoming to lie prostrate before Thee and with weeping and groaning to ask pardon for my sins, than with polluted mouth to praise Thee."

If we met Andrewes today, we'd probably give him a course of Prozac. Or sit him down with a bottle of whisky. And that modern response is surely a key to why we don't pray. The ancient assumption is the pessimistic one that the human condition is essentially disastrous. We are weak, incompetent and fallible. We are miserable sinners. The modern, liberal assumption is the very opposite of that. It is the essentially optimistic idea that, if only we sort things out properly, we are fine.

Feeling like Andrewes is not a recognition of how things are; it is a failure to get your life sorted. If you believe that, to resort to prayer would indeed be mad, because you would be diverting your attention from the real issues of getting a good job, meeting a lovely wife/husband, buying a centrally heated house, knowing you have a car that starts in the morning and looking forward to two weeks in Barbados. Prayer, of its essence, would be a waste of time.

That deep shift in the idea of the self is what marks the modern sensibility. The American religious Right hasn't made that shift, which is one of the reasons we find it so difficult to understand each other. They still think they are rotten. But there is something disturbing for the modern secularised liberal in the example of a figure like Andrewes: the admission of his own hopelessness gave him an extraordinary potency. His miserableness as a sinner, and his constant submission in prayer, made him not an invalid, but as powerful as almost anyone in 17th-century England. The sheer vitality-drive that you feel around the American religious Right is in some ways equivalent to that. That's the disturbing thought: is prayerlessness debilitating?


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: government; prayer; religiousright

1 posted on 12/13/2003 1:09:29 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
This is a very interesting article. Thank you for posting it.
2 posted on 12/13/2003 1:35:02 AM PST by texasflower (in the event of the rapture...the Bush White House will be unmanned!)
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To: texasflower
You're welcome.
3 posted on 12/13/2003 1:36:48 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
I see you continue to do good work finding such excellent essays.

"The ancient assumption is the pessimistic one that the human condition is essentially disastrous. We are weak, incompetent and fallible. We are miserable sinners. The modern, liberal assumption is the very opposite of that. It is the essentially optimistic idea that, if only we sort things out properly, we are fine."

Could be said much simplier and more accurately as:

- The ancient assumption is the pessimistic one that the human condition is essentially disastrous and we are incapable of saving ourselves. The modern, liberal assumption is the very opposite of that. It is the essentially optimistic idea that we can, we must save ourselves.
4 posted on 12/13/2003 1:47:46 AM PST by DugwayDuke
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To: DugwayDuke
Well, LIBERALS want everyone to depend on them and worship them.

***Conservatives who think progressives are misinformed idealists will forever be blind-sided by the malice of the left-by the cynicism of those who pride themselves on principle, by the viciousness of those who champion sensitivity, by the intolerance of those who call themselves liberal, and by the ruthless disregard for the well-being of the downtrodden by those who preen themselves as social saints.

Conservatives are caught by surprise because they see progressives as merely misguided, when in fact they are fundamentally misdirected. They are the messianists of a religious faith. But it is a false faith and a self-serving religion. Since the redeemed future that justifies their existence and rationalizes their hypocrisy can never be realized, what really motivates progressives is a modern idolatry: their limitless passion for the continuance of Them. *** Source

5 posted on 12/13/2003 1:55:39 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Good Find!!!!

Sick and Can't sleep bump.
6 posted on 12/13/2003 2:05:40 AM PST by Louisiana
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To: Louisiana
Hang in there and give thanks you're sick in the U.S.A!
7 posted on 12/13/2003 2:11:51 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Great find. Thanks.
8 posted on 12/13/2003 3:10:37 AM PST by KeyWest
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To: KeyWest
Bump!
9 posted on 12/13/2003 3:30:31 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
I'll add my thanks CW!
10 posted on 12/13/2003 4:12:35 AM PST by Molly Pitcher
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
LOL! This liberal is coming around..."This praying [deleted] could be working!?!??" [shrug]
11 posted on 12/13/2003 4:40:00 AM PST by Ff--150 (that we through His poverty might be rich)
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To: Molly Pitcher
Bump!
12 posted on 12/13/2003 5:52:27 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
is prayerlessness debilitating?

Absolutely. Prayer should be as natural and frequent as breathing.

13 posted on 12/13/2003 5:58:59 AM PST by mombonn (íViva Bush/Cheney!)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
As my brother lost his battle with ALS Thursday afternoon, I continued in prayer. However, later that evening I did pour myself a single shot of cognac to toast in his memory.
God Bless Dave!
14 posted on 12/13/2003 6:02:44 AM PST by G Larry ($10K gifts to John Thune before he announces!)
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To: mombonn
Bump!
15 posted on 12/13/2003 6:20:20 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: G Larry
I'm sure both were helpful. We should celebrate a good life.
16 posted on 12/13/2003 6:21:37 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Interesting read. I am not sure the author is capable of distinguishing the difference between the religious and the spiritual. But he/she is not alone I fear.
17 posted on 12/13/2003 6:41:16 AM PST by ImpBill ("America! ... Where are you now?")
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To: ImpBill
Bump!
18 posted on 12/13/2003 7:19:30 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
what marks the modern sensibility. The American religious Right hasn't made that shift,

They saved the best bigotry for last. By this construction, the US religious right (the religious Left is not acknowledged to exist by European sophisticates) does not share a modern reality. They are something else, something less than modern.

19 posted on 12/13/2003 7:32:18 AM PST by witnesstothefall
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To: TEXOKIE
ping...article of interest
20 posted on 12/13/2003 7:34:05 AM PST by VOA
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Prayer does indeed work.

We have had miraculous, literally, healings at our church at times and I can merit nothing else but continued focused prayer to the almighty.

21 posted on 12/13/2003 7:45:21 AM PST by Just another Joe (FReeping can be addictive and helpful to your mental health)
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To: witnesstothefall
But he isn't saying "modern" is better.
22 posted on 12/13/2003 7:48:34 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
I believe he is implicitly. To the author, the whole notion of modernity precludes religion. One can safely presume that to any modernist, being anything other than modern is less than desirable.

Perhaps I'm putting too fine a point on it. Perhaps not.
23 posted on 12/13/2003 7:54:23 AM PST by witnesstothefall
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To: witnesstothefall
I could be wrong but I think he is saying he is uncomfortable with overt religion even though he recognizes its strength. He's a product of his time but he feels it is out of step.
24 posted on 12/13/2003 8:03:57 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
bump
25 posted on 12/13/2003 8:10:54 AM PST by VOA
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Yes, I agree that's what he's saying outwardly. I'm discussing his psychology, and its (IMO) underlying bias against religion, shared by so many in Europe, some consciously, others not.

26 posted on 12/13/2003 8:16:35 AM PST by witnesstothefall
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To: VOA; Cincinatus' Wife; Ragtime Cowgirl; amom; Alamo-Girl
Thank you so much for the ping! Very excellent article! The sad part is that so many of our brothers and sisters in this nation have been duped by the Lie. IMHO it is very true that the modern secularism is very much an overwhelming form of idolatry, as the author states.

The thing that gives me hope in the face of this is that God wrote His name on the inward parts of his Children and they can be reached by His grace. We are admonished to 'love one another'...and part of the instructions we have been given to fulfill that is to 'pray for one another.'

I also have great hope for this nation when I realize that God shows us in His scripture that the small archetypal "10 Righteous" in the city would be enough to spare the city. This is a point of the Law which we can use in our petitions to the Godhead! (Referring here to the story of Lot bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.)

It is my humble opinion that by God's grace, we HAVE the requisite "10 Righteous" performing their devotions across this nation both here on the forum and in every place of worship. It is these "10 Righteous" which have petitioned God to intercede in our many problems...many of them created by the followers of the Lie. It is the prayers and actions of these "10 Righteous" which have kept this nation free. De Toqueville said something like, "America is Great because she is Good. When she ceases to be Good, she will cease to be Great."

IMHO it is PRAYER which is the key to the goodness of our people.
27 posted on 12/13/2003 8:27:18 AM PST by TEXOKIE (Hold fast what thou hast received!)
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To: TEXOKIE
Great post!
28 posted on 12/13/2003 8:32:16 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: Cincinatus' Wife; TEXOKIE
Prayer, for most of us in this country, now seems, if anything, a little odd, if not embarrassing.

Too bad the writer didn't mention what one of Tony Blair's handlers said
when some reporter wanted to ask Blair about religious matters:
"We DON'T do religion!"
the handler tersely replied.

It will be interesting a hundred years from now when Iraqi history books recount
that two observant Christians (Blair and Dubya, along with a few good men and women)
actually saved the lives of maybe hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from
the murderous Saddam and his son Uday.
29 posted on 12/13/2003 8:41:42 AM PST by VOA
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To: VOA
French in midst of church-state squabble***Underscoring the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, the report said that "discreet" religious signs should be allowed, including small Christian medals or the Christian cross, the Jewish star of David or the Muslim hand of Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Mohammed, or small copies of the Quran.

The report is certain to intensify rather than quiet the increasingly shrill debate in France over the intrusion of religion into public institutions as the country struggles to retain the "republican" ideal of strict separation between church and state.

It highlights the challenges that secular France -- like much of Europe -- faces in coming to grips with Islam. The report charged, for example, that organized groups were testing the secular French state by demands on public services in the name of religion and pressuring Muslims to identify first with their faith and then with their citizenship.

The report also identified issues much broader than the veil.

Among other problems identified in French society were:

·The refusal by some Muslim women to be treated by male doctors.

·Hostility in some schools toward the teaching of the Holocaust.

·Anti-Semitic sentiment among alienated Muslim youth.

·Difficulty in burying the dead according to different religious traditions.

·De facto job discrimination against candidates of foreign origin or foreign parentage. ***

30 posted on 12/13/2003 8:49:07 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
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To: witnesstothefall
I don't know - re-reading this, my take is, he could be lamenting the "modernity" of prayer being an embarrassment.

Has the pendulum swung far enough left? I hope so.

From one of the Presidential Prayer Warriors.
Baseballmom
31 posted on 12/13/2003 9:03:26 AM PST by baseballmom
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To: G Larry
My sympathies to you on the loss of your brother. Prayers up.
32 posted on 12/13/2003 9:04:15 AM PST by baseballmom
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To: G Larry
May God bless Dave, and his brother too!
33 posted on 12/13/2003 9:06:28 AM PST by Ahban
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To: Cincinatus' Wife
Thanks for the kind words, CW. I really appreciate the articles you post which get the think-juices flowing!
34 posted on 12/13/2003 11:50:06 AM PST by TEXOKIE (Hold fast what thou hast received!)
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To: VOA
Excellent points, well stated in your post 29, VOA.
35 posted on 12/13/2003 11:51:25 AM PST by TEXOKIE (Hold fast what thou hast received!)
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To: Cincinatus' Wife; John Beresford Tipton
Isn't mass prayer, or any prayer for that matter, based on the notion that God might not do the right thing the first time without our remonstrations? That God can be made to change his mind? This doesn't fit too well with the image of a God whose pencils have no erasers.
36 posted on 12/13/2003 2:06:02 PM PST by gcruse (http://gcruse.typepad.com/)
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To: gcruse
"Isn't mass prayer, or any prayer for that matter, based on the notion that God might not do the right thing the first time without our remonstrations? That God can be made to change his mind? This doesn't fit too well with the image of a God whose pencils have no erasers."

No. First of all, scripture encourages us to pray together. "Where two or more of you are gathered in my name there I am also". Does that mean God is not there when it's only one of us? Of course not, but the implication is that corporal prayer has more power. Why? Because God want the body of Christ to be as one. He wants believers on the same wave length. He wants us to learn to be concerned about the needs of others as opposed to be self-centered. Therefore we are taught to pray together and for each other's needs.

God encourages us to pray together for our benefit. Just like He invites us to share in His work. Does He really need us to tell anyone about Jesus. Jesus said that if men didn't praise Him the very rocks would cry out! No God doesn't need us to work for Him. But He invites us to do so, because we grow by doing so.

Does that mean that the world would be the same whether Christians did anything or not. No, it would not be the same. Because God has chosen to rely at least in part on us. Therefore what we do in this world does make a big difference.

Remember man was given dominion over the earth. So even though God works directly, God still uses man to accomplish many of His purposes. He doesn't have to. He could do it Himself. He chooses to. And that is in his infinite wisdom, the right thing.

37 posted on 12/13/2003 2:25:32 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN
Nice soliliquoy, but the questions posed were ignored.

Is God capable of doing the wrong thing such that prayer can redirect his course?

If God can change his mind, was he wrong the first time?


38 posted on 12/13/2003 2:51:54 PM PST by gcruse (http://gcruse.typepad.com/)
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To: DugwayDuke; All
Short book, now out of print, worth finding and reading ...

James Burnham, "Suicide of the West"

Makes esentially that differentiation. Conservatives acknowledge evil exists, that humans are not able to eradicate "it." "It" being all sorts of human condition that don't meet with "our" notion of proper.

Personally, as a conservative Christian, the essay made some points that I hadn't previously considered or acknowledged.

39 posted on 12/13/2003 2:58:04 PM PST by Cboldt
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To: gcruse
"Is God capable of doing the wrong thing such that prayer can redirect his course? " Prayer can change His course. For example had Ninevah not repented they would have indeed been destroyed like Sodom and Gemorrah was. But that is not to say that God is capable of doing the wrong thing. He is not. There is no sin and no evil in Him. But that doesn't mean that there is only one right option available to Him. There may be many options. In the story of Ninevah the prophet Jonah didn't won't to go to Ninevah, because Ninevah was renown for it's wickedness and Jonah felt that Ninevah didn't deserve God's mercy. Would God have been right to destroy Ninevah without sending Jonah? I can't say Ninevah didn't deserve what was coming, so how could it be wrong? That God loved them so much that He sent Jonah, doesn't mean that was the only course available to Him. He didn't owe them mercy.

"If God can change his mind, was he wrong the first time? "

Again, I think the illustrations just provided, say no. There is not one and only one right course that God can choose. And scripture does record God changing His mind as the result of prayer.

40 posted on 12/13/2003 3:02:42 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: G Larry
As my brother lost his battle with ALS Thursday afternoon, I continued in prayer. However, later that evening I did pour myself a single shot of cognac to toast in his memory.

Prayers for you and family. May God comfort you in your loss.

I can "sort of" imagine losing a sibling, having lost my father about 10 years ago. But then, I can't really fathom the loss of a sibling (or spouse, or child). It's quite a load. God has blessed humanity with family -- and even that is transient.

Again, my heartfelt prayers and thoughts are with you.

41 posted on 12/13/2003 3:05:07 PM PST by Cboldt
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To: witnesstothefall
They [the religious right] are something else, something less than modern.

Yeah, we're right. ;)

42 posted on 12/13/2003 3:22:45 PM PST by The Grammarian
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To: gcruse
"Isn't mass prayer, or any prayer for that matter, based on the notion that God might not do the right thing the first time without our remonstrations?"

"Might not do the right thing"? God might do things that man would prefer otherwise, but God never does the "wrong thing".
43 posted on 12/14/2003 4:26:29 AM PST by DugwayDuke
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