Not Praying your Request

“Please pray that I win the lottery.” “Please pray my son will recover from his illness.” “Please pray the grading machine will mess up so I can pass even though I don’t know the answers.” “Please pray that my abusive neighbor will die.” “Please pray for the conversion of my spouse.”

You will see legitimate and less-than-proper prayer requests on that list.  When someone makes a prayer request of you, he is assuming that you will pray, and that you will pray according to his request.  You will often hear what the person wants, and that is about it.

We allow people to give us requests as though they can write (almost) anything on a blank cheque. And we politely agree because it is the politically correct Christian action, and promptly forget the prayer request, more quickly than the person who asks you to pray.

Genuine, heartfelt prayer takes a lot of energy and time.  That means it is a limited resource.  Just think of it as money.  Even if you were a rich man with lots of money, you do not give it to whoever asks you for some.  In fact, the way people ask for prayer from other people suggests that prayer cost you next to nothing.

Nothing is further from the truth! If I pray for you, I am denying myself in many ways.  I have less time for work, or rest, or time with family, or personal pleasure, etc.  My time is a non-renewable resource.  Once I spend it on you, I cannot spend it on anything else. 

I don’t accept prayer requests willy-nilly.  I impose conditions when I pray for a person. (1) You must pray yourself. (2) I need to know as much as possible and engage with you on the request, because I may be praying for what you do not want.  You may want me to pray that your nasty in-law keels over and die, and I may pray that you get the wisdom  to  know  your  own  faults, how  to handle your in-laws, and transformation in your heart. (3) This is to say, I may not pray your request.  My prayer must be according to what I know of God’s character and will.  I cannot pray something against God’s character or will. (4) You must be willing to do something about the matter.  If you want me to pray for the salvation of your aged relative, that is naturally a good item for God is not willing that any should perish.  But you must be willing to be the agent of good news to that relative.

We carry over too much of pagan thinking into Christian prayer.  Pagan prayer allows us to pray for anything, and by ritual or words, we harness the forces of nature and the gods to do our bidding.  Coming into the presence of our all powerful God is a different matter. We make our needs known, and surrender our will to his.     PE


Mark’s Gospel & Apostle Peter

There is significant early Christian record that Mark’s Gospel was a record of Peter’s preaching in Rome.  Early Christian tradition is not to be regarded as the Word of God, or to be totally reliable.  But they give us the background to things that the Bible does not talk about.

Mark_4x6 Papias was the Overseer of the church in Hierapolis, and he died as a martyr in Smyrna (AD 155).  Many of his writings are no longer extant, but he was cited by Eusebius the church historian (d. circa AD 340) concerning Mark’s Gospel:

The Elder (John) said this also: Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had neither heard the Lord nor been one of his followers, but afterwards, as I said, he had followed Peter, who used to compose his discourses with a view to the needs of his hearers, but not as though he were drawing up a connected account of the Lord’s sayings. So Mark made no mistake in thus recording some things just as he remembered them. For he was careful of this one thing, to omit none of the things he had heard and to make no untrue statements therein. (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.15)

We do not know who the Elder John was.  Some believe it was the same person as John the Apostle, or it could be John Mark himself, or some unknown John. But this represents very early tradition. 

There was strict journalistic rigor in the  first centuries about representation, unlike the liberties some journalists practise today.  The     recording    was     not    chronological probably because they were Peter’s preaching, which would not be chronological.  But when the gospel was written, Mark did place the events in general chronological order.

We are told that Mark’s job was as an interpreter to Peter.  It could well be that Peter did not speak Latin and Mark did. 

When I preach with an interpreter, I give him a detailed outline so he knows ahead of time what I will be saying.  Perhaps Peter did that also.  If so, Mark would have the preaching notes of Peter.

The Anti-Marcionite Prologue (AD 160-180) has a surviving fragment that reads:

“… Mark declared, who is called `stump-fingered’ because he had short fingers in comparison with the size of the rest of his body. He was Peter’s interpreter. After the death of Peter himself he wrote down this same gospel in the regions of Italy.”

This tradition affirms Markan dependence on Peter and places the composition somewhere in Italy.

Irenaeus (c. AD 180) a church father when writing to refute heresies mentioned Mark’s Gospel thus: “And after their [Peter’s and Paul’s] death, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing the things preached by Peter.” (Contra Haereses 3.1.2).

When we read Mark’s Gospel with this awareness, it is really not difficult to see Peter as the content provider.  For e.g. Simon Peter was the first disciple in Mark 1.  This is Simon Peter’s point of view.

800px-Fra_Angelico_-_St_Peter_Preaching_in_the_Presence_of_St_Mark_-_WGA00464Fra Angelico’s depiction of Peter preaching and Mark taking notes.
Depictions are stylized, not period accurate.
Peter and Mark identifiable by their halos.

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