203: PRAYER AND MEDITATION (See, Judge, Act, and Review)

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, my Christian/Atheist blog without boundaries where I muse aloud about religion and life. I hope you get something out of it!” Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

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The Alpha course handbook (i) describes a four part pattern for prayer:

A – adoration – praising God
C – confession
T – thanksgiving
S – supplication – praying for ourselves, for our friends, and for others. (p.92)

Packer’s “Concise Theology” (p.162) (ii) uses the same formula, though without making a gimicky mnemonic out of it, and recommends the Lord’s Prayer and the Psalter. Apparently all 3 components of the trinity may be prayed to, either together or separately.

Both these evangelical fundamentalists plainly see God as a person on the other end of a kind of cosmic telephone line, literally listening to the prayers of millions of humans every day, 24/7. If only!

Now, if, like myself and millions of other humans you don’t believe in a literal God up in the clouds any more – i.e., in the jargon, you are a “non-realist” –  then is there any point in prayer at all? What do you feel in church when you are expected to repeat such words as “We beseech thee, Oh Lord”, or “Our Father”, or “We ask this in Jesus’ name”?

Is prayer a form of magic? If you say something in the right way, then will God answer? (No)

One modern Anglican group says of prayer “Sometimes it means just letting the awareness of God enfold us, like loving arms – we don’t need to say anything else, the contact is enough”. (iii) (i.e.we just need a good imagination)

How can I, the writer of the avowedly atheist Zingcreed blog, be the slightest bit interested? If I don’t believe in prayer, why don’t I just shut up and let those who wish to pray to their God(s) get on with it, unmolested?

My answer to that is that while I do think that praying to a non-existent God is a waste of breath, and you’d be better off doing some charitable work for the poor….there’s part of it which can be rescued. (So, I’m being arrogant? Remember, this is a BLOG, where I express my own personal polemical views – take ‘em or leave ‘em. But, I try to indulge in constructive criticism of Christian practices only. And, you may not find such refreshing views in many other places on the web.)

With that out of the way, I would now like to discuss two practices of which I approve, and both of which are used daily by Christians (and others) world wide! I commend to your attention (a) “See, Judge, Act, Review” and (b) Meditation.

In another Post I shall give examples of “prayers”/ “meditations”/”reflections” which don’t mention God as such, and so can be used for interfaith events (remember, Buddhists don’t believe in God), as well as being used by agnostics and atheists. Yes, really. Now, isn’t that a positive outcome? Zingcreed is not trying to take away prayer from believers but to share it with non-believers!

See, Judge, Act, Review (iv) (Source: Young Christian Workers website [I think they’re Belgian])
Can be undertaken as a personal meditation, sitting alone with your eyes closed, or as a group activity, where nothing like prayer or meditation as such necessarily takes place.

Basically it’s just thinking about what you’re doing in a structured way. It’s common sense really. Think bullet points and tick lists. Think political actions for peace or social justice. Think effective outcomes via business-like efficiency.

This method challenges people (e.g.members of an affinity group, or of a local solidarity group) to become aware of the reality of their particular situation and that of those around them, in their workplace, community and parish, school, home, workplace and in society.

(1) See
During the meeting members of the group help one another to explore the details of the events/facts/situations that they have chosen to address on this particular occasion, to gain a greater understanding and to assess the causes and consequences of what has happened.

Questions to ask:

  • Where did it take place?
  • Who was involved?
  • What actually happened?
  • How often does this occur?
  • How did the situation affect those involved?
  • What was said? Why did this happen?
  • Why did people act as they did?
  • What are the causes and consequences of what happened?
  • (Add questions of your own)

(2) Judge
The group discusses the rights and wrongs relevant to the situations and experiences shared, taking note of what has been discovered in the “See” part.

Questions to ask:

  • Should this situation be happening?
  • Do you think this is right?
  • What makes it right or wrong?
  • Is there anything we can do to change the situation?
  • (Add questions of your own)

(3) Act
The group discusses possible ways of responding to the situations described in the “See” part. Actions can be carried out by individuals within the group or by the group as a whole.

Questions to ask:

  • Is there anything you/we can do, no matter how small, to improve the situation?
  • Is there anything more we need to find out?
  • How can we do this?
  • Is there anyone we can influence to improve things?
  • What actions are we going to take?
  • (Add your own questions)

(4) Review

More often it’s the process we go through on the way to action that’s important. It is always essential to review our actions to see if it was a success and what we learned from working together.

Questions to ask:

  • Did we carry out the action?
  • Did we achieve the original purpose?
  • Did it change the situation of the person(s) who originally brought the situation to our attention?
  • What difficulties did we come up against?
  • What effect did our action have on us and others?
  • What did we learn from the action?
  • How did we feel before? During? After?
  • Is there anything we would do differently?
  • Is there any further action we could take?
  • (Add your own questions)

Meditation (v)

  • has been an integral part of Christianity (and of the Jewish faith too) so it goes back at least 4000 years
  •  is practiced by most religions
  • can be a totally secular experience, a way of ‘finding yourself,’ relaxing, or reducing stress.
  • has no special techniques or methods
  • is not a quick fix for anything

 

Related Zingcreed Posts:
On surviving the Alpha course
Prayers for Atheists
Jesus’s authentic words of prayer
Prayer vs meditation

 

Sources:
(i)  Gumbel, N. “Alpha. Qurstions of Life” Kingsway (1993)
(ii) Packer, J.I. “Concise Theology., A guide to historic Christian beliefs” IVP (1993)
(iii)  “Christian Prayer. How can I Pray?” Gospelimprint.com
(iv) www.ycw.ie/aboutus/see_judge_act.php
(v)  www.meditationforchristians.com/seejudgeact.htm
(vi)

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