Frequently Asked Questions
Isn’t this Catholic?
Well, both yes and no. Protestants do have some serious theological disagreements with Roman Catholics about doctrines like justification, among others. But common prayer need not be about justification – even most Baptists will agree that the human will is involved in sanctification. And yes, it is catholic, in the sense that the word really means “universal.” Prayer is the work of the whole church. No, it is not Roman Catholic in the sense of being denominationally peculiar; nearly all types of orthodox Christians have had recognized forms for liturgical prayer – even many Baptists.
Is this a form of works righteousness?
If you believe it will make your life more beautiful so that God will love you more, then yes. If you believe that God loves you already, and that in and through common prayer God’s spirit can work to make your life beautiful, then no, it is not a form of works righteousness.
What about the dangers of empty ritualism?
Yes, empty ritual is a problem – and it is a problem in all Christian denominations. Some rituals are good and helpful. The Lord Jesus himself commanded two rituals – Communion and Baptism. But there are other rituals that permeate and give structure to our daily lives. Telling your spouse everyday that you love her and giving her a kiss before heading off to work is a ritual. When the will and heart are joined it it, it is a powerful and reinforcing ritual. When the will and heart are not in it, it is merely a deception – both of the self and of the other. So it is with any ritual of the church.
Are you saying I have to pray four times a day? That sounds Muslim.
Well, devout Muslims pray more often than four times a day, and early Christians prayed at least three times a day, 500 years before Muhammed was born. They learned this practice from the formational disciplines of second temple Judaism. If you have the personal bandwidth to pray four times a day great. If not, then pray when you have time – as often as you can manage. A transformative life of prayer does not require anything but a willing and humble heart, and of course, consistency.
What is the best way to learn how to do this form of prayer?
Find someone to learn from. If you are a Baptist and don’t have someone to learn it from, find a patient group of people to learn it with. Pay close attention to the rubrics (italicized instructions) in the book, and fumble through together until it becomes more natural. Laugh often. Do not grow weary in doing good.