Sunday, January 25, 2009

To be overruled...

Some warm words on the Lord's Prayer from Henry Wilder Foote on a bitter cold New England morning...

" As he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."

"...the first condition of prayer is, that it shall be really offered to God, — that is, to the highest and purest will of which he who prays has any conception. It must mean desire not to overrule, but to be overruled by Him." A selfish wish, even if thrown out in that form, is still selfishness praying to itself. He who gave us the Lord's Prayer, with its trustful voicing of our great human needs, has shown us the spirit which should underlie all our prayer, when in his own hour of trial he cried, " Nevertheless, Father, not as I will, but as thou wilt! "
" In Christ's sense, Christian prayer addresses primarily not God's omnipotence at all, but his spiritual nature. . . . Prayer is ... the chief method by which the eager and short-sighted and imperfect mind gradually learns to purify itself in the flame of Divine love. People talk and think as if prayer only meant bringing pressure to bear for private purposes on the Power which touches the secret springs of life. But in Christ's teaching it means bringing Divine influences to bear on these private purposes, so as to extinguish or transform them."
The highest view of life is the truest. Only when we regard it as God's gift to us, and its privileges as ways of serving Him, do we know how to use them aright... Our deepest wants are those which touch no other human spirit, — which no outward possession can satisfy. The soul meets problems of duty, and our unaided wisdom is not able to solve them. We need an absolute standard of right to regulate our conduct. How shall we obtain it, unless by turning our thoughts to the Highest ?
We need, too, to pray in order to deepen our thankfulness to God. We go on from day to day, often almost without thought of Him to whom we owe the gift of our happiness and the blessing which He has hidden even in our pain. Prayer gives us time to think, and brings a light above the earth into our thought.
Who would not desire to bring the Divine Life, the Divine Presence, into our daily consciousness, to transfigure the common things about us by that light?"

Have a blessed Sabbath

2 comments:

David G. Markham said...

Hi BU:

I like Rev. Foote's idea that prayer is not intercessory, begging God, as if He were a vending machine to cater to our whims and desires, but rather as a transformational force which brings our small egotistical will into alignment with God's will not only for us but for the whole interdependent web of existence.

Foote's idea is incredible that prayer should be transforming. How has Unitarian Universalism lost this vision? Of do you think it is still present? Maybe in diluted form of some sort. It still is present on your blog because you have kept it alive by reflecting on the theology of our predecessors.

Thank you for your most important work.

All the best,

David Markham

boston unitarian said...

Many thanks David for your comments on Foote's Lord's Prayer. I have found, in my almost 6 years of involvement with UUism, that prayer as a word is suspect but that prayer as a practice is more prevelant. For myself, when I stopped praying to a particular idea or manifestation of God, and started to pray as part of following The Way-part of living an eternal, transformational life, my prayer life became richer.
Thanks again! Blessings, BU