Heidelcast 209—Our Father (1): What Prayer Is And Is Not

With this episode we begin a new series, Our Father. What is prayer? How should we pray? Why is it hard to pray? How often should we pray? What good is prayer? In this series we will tackle these questions and more. For the believer, who has been given new life by the sovereign, unconditional work of the Holy Spirit, who has freely declared righteous before God, by grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), who has been united to Christ by the Spirit, who has been given the gift of adoption, prayer would seem like the most natural thing in the world and it is important. No act is more basic to the Christian life, to Christian worship, to piety, and to growth and yet prayer is also uniquely and strangely difficult. My experience and reading tells me that the struggle to pray is common to believers. I have not often heard or read people to say, “I just could not bring myself to eat for weeks at a time.” Yet I have heard and read Christians to say such things about prayer. Nevertheless, prayer is as basic to the Christian life as eating is to bodily life and just as we need to be taught what food is good for us (and what is not) so too we need to learn what prayer is and is not. Prayer is an essential element of our sanctification (the Spirit’s gradual, gracious work of conforming believers to the image of Christ). Just as we are learning daily what it means to die to sin and to live to Christ, so too we daily learn how imperfect and inconsistent our prayers are and what it means to pray as our Lord taught, in the Spirit, to the Father.



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Show Notes

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  1. I look forward to the series. Curious when ecclesiastical prayers started verging into Marian territory. I’ve heard the saying Anglicans quote a lot in Latin, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.

    I remember visiting a famous Roman Catholic author, the same guy Stellman visited up here in Seattle, asking about Marian theology and he was trying to explain Newman’s doctrinal development. He said though not expressly written in the early church, it was part of the prayers of the church that developed into doctrine. Seems odd. I’ve always though Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi makes more sense. Better yet, Lex Scriptura, Lex Credendi et Orandi.

    • Michial,

      There is no “Marian piety” in the 2nd century. As late as the 13th century the idea of a feast for the BVM was controversial. She wasn’t elevated to Mediatrix until the 1950s.

      Newman’s theory (“Newman!” 😂) is self-serving and without warrant in the actual history of doctrine.

      Devotion to the BVM and attempts to pray to her developed gradually, over a long period of time as people increasingly came to see Jesus as their judge and not as their substitute and Mediator. This is why the Belgic is so helpful on this as is the Heidelberg.

      The Book of Hebrews is the biblical remedy for Marian devotion and Mariolatry.

      She’s the blessed virgin, amen but she’s not our Mediatrix. That’s heresy and it’s idolatry.

      Lex orandi, lex credendi is a medieval slogan which merely means “the law of praying is the law of believing.” It means that there’s an integral relation between what we do in worship and what we come to believe. It means that congregations who sing silly songs about God are catechizing their people in a false doctrine of God (e.g, “O HowHe Loves Me”).

  2. Correction to above. I’ve always though Lex Credendi, Lex Orandi, not Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi makes more sense.

  3. Thanks for the reply, Dr, Clark. So much error in the church, if not all, seems to boil down to a rejection of the solas.

    • I think it goes a bit deeper than just the Solas and gets to the sinful heart’s rejection of God’s authority in general. “Has God truly said?” is now “Did God really mean it that way?”

      Wasn’t that the heart of the reformation after all?

  4. Just finished listening to Heidelcast #1 on prayer so I’m sure there’s much more to come. But at the end of the podcast you struck on a familiar note and one which I find very unsettling and that is having to listen to long drawn out prayers from others in small group settings. Having listened to only a few of these in the past I have had the urge to jump up and yell, “get it over with already!” After all, didn’t Jesus condemn the use of Pharisees for their long, loud prayers (especially on street corners) comparing them to the many words that pagans use to wake up their gods to hear them?

    This tendency is frequency exacerbated by what have been derogatorily known as “weejusss” prayers – that is, repetitive use of the phrase…”Father, we just”… over and over again at various times during various intercessions. I’m struggling between “giving offense” and “taking offense” when being put off by these kinds of prayers. And again, these occur in group settings and because they do they make me cautious, at least, and reluctant, at best, to join things like “men’s bible studies” that require ’round-the-table’ group praying like this.

    I need help understanding the struggle of how to be patient with others in these matters versus just turning away from them and going my own way.

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