“I Believe” Research Episode One: Prayer Assumes a Need
Since announcing last Monday the news that I am publishing an online and in-person Bible study, I am so excited by the responses and participation. You can find all the details about When and how and what here.
Over the next several weeks, before the study itself launches, I will be sharing some research and prayer that has informed my decision to pursue this topic of study and this format. Several sources from people of different backgrounds and experiences will be used.
To catch you up to speed, friend, here is what the I Believe study is all about:
The above is my thesis statement for this study. Disclaimer: this Bible Study is a project in fulfillment of my undergraduate degree in Christian Studies and Global Citizenship at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Now, let’s dive into the literature today’s research focuses on.
Mark R McMinn, Ph.D., in his book, Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling, argues for the importance of Christian morality as part of mental therapy, namely biblical principles such as redemption, prayer, and forgiveness.
McMinn states that “Prayer assumes need. Prayer and helplessness are inseparable.”
He supports this with Luke 18:9-16:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
I think that one of the most unfortunate assumptions about Christians is that they are self-righteous and “holier than thou.” There are certainly people pertaining to all beliefs that operate out of these traits. I would argue that we all do, in various ways.
But the call of a Christian is to be absolutely humble, recognizing his or her brokenness, and “need,” as McMinn says, for God. A recognition of this need, then, should lead to prayer.
If we go on in our selfish ways, thinking, as the man in this parable, “Thank goodness I’m not like the robbers or evildoers,” failing to recognize how broken we are, we will very likely turn to selfish means of living.
When we pray, however, recognizing our need to communicate with our God, our need for His guidance– we can operate out of the humility and love of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34).
McMinn’s explanation of how prayer requires “humble awareness of our need for God” lends itself to the first step in the I Believe Bible Study: praying about what, exactly, you will fast.
I am so excited to see how God continues to work out His plan for this study, and how many hearts and minds will be able to grow and learn from one another!