Saturday, October 6, 2012

Prayerful Consideration


There is a phrase which crops up in correspondence from some folks. It is usually associated with an action they have taken or intend to take and it sounds spiritual enough on the surface, but is there more?

People do not actually speak this way in conversation. It is more of a written model of discourse. Is this a possible discontinuity? There is a kind of distance that belies the essential feeling of the phrase. Are we more ourselves when writing or speaking? Who would you rather meet, a speaker or a writer?

I have loved many of the things written by Scott Peck, but I heard him speak once and I was underwhelmed by his ability on that occasion.

Jesus did not talk this way. What would Jesus think about such talk? Can we know? Can we guess? It may be worth a try.

Here it comes. See if this sounds like anyone you know. See if this sounds like anyone you would want to know. See if this sounds like you. See if this sounds like a friend of “you know who”.

After prayerful consideration, I/we have decided to . . . . The words, which follow, are usually in the form of an announcement of something which is not going to happen. Example. “After prayerful consideration, we have decided we are not going to make a pledge this year or any year until that heretic bishop is gone”. Or, “after prayerful consideration, I must submit my resignation from the vestry until such time as we get a rector who knows the Bible”. Or, “after prayerful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that there are too many men in the priesthood and we will not attend another service presided over by a man”.

You know I am just making these up, right? No one actually talks like that. It is just a kind of mystery to me. What kind of prayer would lead a person into a response which feels filled with so much anger, rejection, and hostility? This is not my experience of prayer. I wonder about the many people who pray about decisions with a positive outcome, about things they will do to build up the Body of Christ and never use these words. Come with me to the playground of the mind.

Harold: “God, Marge and I have been thinking about the terrible things which have been going on in the church and we believe something must be done. We are thinking about not pledging this time. What to you think”?

God: Silence

Harold: “God, if you agree, don't say anything”.

God: Silence

Harold: “See, Marge, we were right. Let's get this thing down in writing while it is still fresh in our minds”.


After prayerful consideration, . . . .

I just cannot get away from the notion that God always calls us to states of generosity and hospitality. God always calls us to places of compassion even in the face of difficulties. This more friendly notion of things is a little more prevalent in the New Testament, which is where Christian people like to find their primary identity.

I believe deeply in prayer as describing our connecting relationship with God. My problem is with the use of prayer language to justify an angry opinion. Certainly we can disagree on issues, but make no mistake about it; God calls us into a unity which must suffer our differences of opinion. And, there is a place for all of us at the table as well as a place for a little humor in all of this.

After prayerful consideration, I have decided to leave Harold and Marge to their own devices, because they do not have a question. They only have answers.


  1. Yes, Bob, I think the Bishop of Rome has used prayerful consideration on a few occasions. I wonder what Galileo might have thought of it. . . Thanks.

  2. Bob, thank you for becoming a blogger on Episcopal Journey of Hope. Your experience and perspective will add insight for us and our readers. Anger or aggravations – we need to learn how to handle them and surely God counsels patience.

  3. I remember well a parishioner once saying to me, "I am praying for you father," with teeth clenched and a grimace on his face...clearly couching anger in a pious phrase with an intenswe desire for me to change to suit his will, not God's. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Bob.

  4. I discern that there are times when this language is used to imply that those who disagree with whatever the speaker or writer is selling are resistant to the will of God.

    It is used too frequently in this way IMHO. It subtly changes the issue from "shall we do this?" to "If you disagree you are wrong. I have spiritual discernment, and you don't."