On Praying For Grace
America has vast masses of one dimensional "change it" thinkers. Many of them are praying in the churches of all denominations and faiths. These talk incessantly about the change, change, change, that they are praying for, but it is usually normal life they wish to be delivered from. The changes they desire are often one dimensional changes, for example: another automobile, a larger house, more money, more rights. These one dimensional people are seeking one dimensional resolutions to one dimensional problems. The preferred changes often asked for do not involve the big picture, that is spiritually oriented change or a vision that transcends the self.
What you might consider praying for is the larger vision and self transcendent changes. You will notice in the Lord's Prayer Jesus prays: "Thy will be done." This isn't a simple one dimensional, superficial and surface change. It involves adjusting your spiritual vision to fit in with God's wider plan. It involves not nagging God through prayers into making the world go away and making you the center of things, the one praying, the person the universe should be adjusted to even if that means natural laws and universal principles be changed.
If you want to pray, I suggest you pray mostly for grace . There are two types of grace: common grace and divine grace. All enlightenment and change comes from one or the other. Therefore pray for grace for yourself and others, but I advise you I think the best way to receive grace is to prime the pump of grace to get things going. I consider the best way to prime the pump of grace is to be gracious, benevolently spreading grace filled and somewhat selfless actions (no action will be,
I think, completely selfless, but by being gracious or showing grace to others, grace comes to you) Grace is the unmerited favor of God to us, and grace brings down more grace.
The more grace we show others, the more spiritual growth we earn, and the grace we give may react on others as the sun's grace and warmth reacts on growing things. For every person needs to grow spiritually. Everyone needs graciousness.
All of us contain the desire to grow and evolve spiritually, even mean people; but to coax out the good and to grow in the nature God meant for mankind, people must receive encouragement and affection from others. Sometimes that grace given for others to grow costs us a great deal. We then pay in suffering and in giving, making the same kind of sacrifices parents must make to have their children grow. For the world itself is a child that must be blessed by gracious actions to grow.
It takes the mature grace of Christian adults, our care, love and favor, to enable others of any age and time to grow. And we must show plenty of grace to others that others may spiritually grow and spiritually evolve in that predestined hope of wholeness, material and spiritual, that God has as the ultimate goal of mankind.
Remember we DO have a choice to make on whether we selfishly frustrate grace. Those who strangle grace, frustrate grace, ignore grace, which grace includes all impulses to encourage, further and bless life benevolently, do so inappropriately. Those frustrating grace end life in a sad, pitiful and spiritually starved condition. (Many are now sick and dying of spiritual starvation in this land that has plenty but is handicapped with many, many gross materialists and non-believers preaching heavy materialism.)
But do not, starve, strangle or brutally cut out of yourself the impulses of grace you know you feel at times. We know that feelings of God and for God are built into mankind. His pleas of grace, fall like rain drops fall: often upon an arid earth.
All people who are truthful have felt impulses of grace but many have ignored them, being selfish and numb of heart. Such have fallen short of God's intentions for us, the rejecters being ignorant, non-spiritual, insensate and Much too close to the dirt FOR THE GOOD THINKING THAT VALIDATES MANKIND, which is that thinking which fulfils man as created and lifts mankind higher in its spiritual progress towards fullness of being.
What is best for mankind in its thinking is that people recognize the immortality of the soul and that all possess a soul by virtue of GOD. If you deny these feelings for and from God, you separate yourself from God and what He has created mankind to be.
It is true many materialists say God and His Grace is not true according to what some now suppose they know. This is ridiculous because we do not know now what the end results will show. Actually mankind knows very little. Instead of pontificating false answers on what is now know and concluded from what little we now know, we should wait. Wait until all the facts are in which is far away in time. And in the meantime we should abide by the wisdom of our natures which whispers to us Of God and His Creation.
So my suggestion is to go with the belief in God you feel naturally, and to trust your natural feelings for God until all the facts are in. I do not think the feelings in our nature lie to us but are our friends put there to help us. I suggest ultimately the feelings of mankind for God may be found to help us and be correct guides to life.
I also venture to say the people who have trouble with the existence of God may have confused the existence of God with various revelations of God they do not care for. If that is the case, the thing to do is not to deny God but to try to purify the revelations of God.
I also question whether philosophical and largely intellectual means are an accurate way to arrive at the nature of God. I have had an experience of God that gave me a great awareness of Him. In His Presence I found God to be compassionate and cleansing. The Presence I found myself before did not, as happened to the Apostle, identify Himself as Christ. But, nevertheless, I knew that this cleansing Spirit before me and who cared passionately for me was God.
The point I am making is that through facts we do not really know God's existence but we know it through a relationship. Even if you believe God exists, what good does that do if you have no relationship with Him. Because it is through the relationship with God, not cold facts or descriptions that we know God, that God lives.
I suggest it is the relationship with God that pulls the cart. But much of the Western Church has put the cart before-the horse. Pseudo-scientific facts, creeds, Biblical studies, and on and on may make up a nice cart. But the cart will not pull the horse. That is one reason the churches are so very dead or anemic today. They've decided stake their position on pseudo-scientific facts and on second hand knowledge about what He is like.
Now God is infinite. We are finite. No finite person can have a full knowledge of God who is infinite. So respect everyone's ideas about God. I didn't say believe them, I said respect and tolerate them, because their beliefs may be part of an infinity your finiteness cannot grasp.
As for us as individuals, each person must go inching forward on the relatively small amount of grace his finiteness can take in or absorb. This amount of grace is what we must be true to. But let your religion start with a personal relationship with God. That is the right horse to draw whatever your religious cart is. Look for a relationship with God.
Whether there is a God or not is an interesting but boring speculation. What kind of creed you have or hold is probably due to which third hand sources you read. But if it is going to be your religion, and you want a faith, then first, REACH OUT. Know God IS. You need to meet Him. Will you find Him? I can't tell you definitely. GOD is a mystery.
But always pray and push for more grace. The Sovereign Spirit of God is a high wind that blows where, whom and what it wills. I do not understand the full irony of the methods by which God protects Himself from manipulation. Actually, I don't want to. I 'm incapable of full and infinite understanding since I am finite. I prefer the divine mystery that protects God from man's manipulation. I have decided it's better for God and better for me and better for the world. But I do know God is out there. I wish you much grace in the finding of Him.
However, while it may take time and work to set up or arrive at some sensible semblance of a desirable direct relationship with God, you do have help immediately at hand in access to grace in the taking of Holy Communion. At that time God is spiritually present. (As believing Protestants we do not accept the idea of the bread of the Holy Communion becoming LITERALLY the body of Christ as the Roman Catholic Communion does.) Our view, a better one to offer, I think, is Christ is spiritually present at Holy Communion and therefore the spiritual presence of Christ is available to believers as they take it. This is a mystical statement of union with Christ. So Holy Communion is seen as a means of grace that offers direct access to God.
The reading of the Bible under the influence of the Holy Spirit can also be seen as a means of divine grace that gives access to God. When Luther received insight and illumination as to the true and deeper meaning of Romans 1:17, (the verse containing "the just shall live by faith") it was an example of scripture illuminated by divine grace. Here was a case of the divine power of grace, a divine enlightenment, where proper spiritual insight was given to the circumstances by the Holy Spirit.
Also in the preaching of the Word of God by and from the Bible, a sudden illumination of Biblical principles as enlightening may be found. One such example of divine grace is that of John Newton, trader of slaves, who saw the light of God and helped influence William Wilberforce to end the slave traffic in England. ("Amazing Grace" is the hymn written by The Rev. Newton, a former slave trader who was given light to see and change his ways. Newton wrote of grace, amazing grace.)
One duty to God is to try to have a direct relationship with God and Christ His Son, having as much knowledge of the three personalities of the Trinity in God as we can in our finiteness fairly accommodate. Then we should read the Bible prayerfully, regularly, as well as seeking illumination from it. We should attend Holy Communion that we be met to Christ who is spiritually present, and listen to preaching of the Bible if it be a true parallel imparting the spiritual interpretation it was meant to have origionally.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.