Illusory Follies Andrew Flanagan's Blog

6Dec/073

A proper prayer to God?

I just found the following in a local church's bulletin for the prayer of confession:

God of the future, You are coming in power to bring all nations under Your rule. We confess that we have not expected Your kingdom, for we live casual lives, ignoring Your promised judgment. We accept lies as truth, exploit neighbors, abuse the earth, and refuse Your justice and peace. In Your mercy, forgive us. Grant us wisdom to welcome Your way, and to seek things that will endure when Christ comes to judge the world. Amen.

And now, from another church that will remain nameless.

Almighty and all holy Father; we confess ourselves unworthy of Your unspeakable Gift. We have not loved You as we ought; nor have we always been loving to one another; kindhearted, forgiving one another; even as You, for Christ’s sake, have forgiven us. We have lived in selfishness and worldly pride, and the good gifts You have bestowed upon us, we have not used to relieve the burdens of others. Pardon and blot out our offenses, we beg You. O merciful Father, who in compassion for Your sinful children did send Your Son Jesus Christ to be the Saviour of the world: Grant us grace to feel and to lament our share in the evil which made it needful for Him to suffer and to die for our salvation. Help us by self-denial, prayer, and meditation to prepare our hearts for deeper penitence and a better life. And give us a true longing to be free from sin, through the deliverance wrought by Jesus Christ our only Redeemer. Amen.

One mentions redemption and the other doesn't. It's very weird to me. The first excerpt is a little mystical as to why we bother to obey and why what we've done is wrong (other than it's not part of His "way"). It seems that the author(s) of the first prayer seems to think that we should be on the winning side when Christ comes again. The second seems personal -- a real offense has taken place, a real sacrifice to appease the wrong has been offered, and a real act of reconciliation has been brokered.

I'm obviously extremely biased to the second, but I do think that the above shows how the mainstream church in America has become "drained of its blood". It's not that it's wrong, but just incomplete. Could moves like this, be one of the reasons that the mainstream church is falling in membership and attendance, and lacking purpose? The odd thing about all this is that it probably was designed to make things more palatable to visitors. But really what it's doing is watering-down the Christian faith so much that a Buddhist could jump right in and participate without changing any of his beliefs. When something lacks a unique identity, no one will be interested in any depth or for any length of time.

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  1. Well, I think we could have a really, really long discussion on why the church is losing attendance and relevance in the world – I think there are quite a few really good reasons why that happens. But I do agree with you that it doesn’t really benefit anyone involved to try to make things fluffy and nice to try to attract people into the church. As Derek Webb puts it, the gospel is and should be offensive, because it requires us to change and grow, and that is beyond our comfort. But we are all about comfort, and we like a place where nobody ever tells us we’re wrong. I think this is partly why there are so many wishy-washy Christians too, and why the church is seen as behaving so contrary from the message they preach – many Christians have never had to struggle with their faith to any great extent (because they have simply been made, or made themselves, comfortable), and therefore it doesn’t mean much to them personally. If you look at all the sort of “giants of faith” in the Bible, they are people who have had to struggle with everything in them to decide what faith in God meant to them, to the point of agony. There definitely isn’t a rosy, comfortable picture of following God painted in the Bible. Just a very deep, rewarding one.

  2. Nameless, eh? 🙂

  3. Meh, it’s nothing new…liberalism has always sounded like that.


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