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Friday, January 13, 2017

The Persistent Themes of Gratitude and Goodwill in Christian Prayer

Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Love for Enemies
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is occasionally posited that Christian prayer is effectively an instance of ritual meditation that focuses, for example, on rhythmic breathing.  If Christians seem particularly joyous in the face of depressing events like sickness and death, this can be attributed in part to their insufferable escapism epitomized by delusional mirages of blissful lives cambering specter-like upon jeweled streets of gold.

An alternative viewpoint is possible. With continuing studies of the brain and the importance of attitude and mood, it is becoming increasingly clear that the exercise of gratitude and goodwill are key elements in happiness and health. Christians regularly begin their prayers by counting their blessings (even in the face of scarcity) and then turn to their Heavenly Father with earnest petitions (most often of of a social nature) replete with heartfelt expression and yearning for the practical implementation of love and goodwill.  To the extent that Christianity may be exceptional, we need look to its prayerful prioritizing of tenor and tone congruent with the faithful execution of Golden Rule accountability.

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