Sermon Review: Memorized Prayers

September 26th, 2010: The Lords Prayer

I have no idea whether or not Mark Driscoll has ever read anything I have written here.  My guess would be that he has read very little of our content, if any at all.  Still, Mark Driscoll is getting what DriscollWatch is trying to do as evidenced by this statement in his most recent sermon:

And let me say this, I’m really sympathetic, because I didn’t know how to pray. I was raised a marginal, jacked, Irish-Catholic boy.

I’m thankful that Pastor Mark has rephrased the way he explains his experience as a Catholic.  It is objectively more honest than other statements he has made about his past, and the people of Mars Hill Church deserve that honesty. It is my personal opinion that the priests and lay people responsible for Mark Driscoll’s formation as a Catholic failed.  They passed on legalism and external piety without passing on Jesus Christ.  Even though I’m saddened that Mark Driscoll left the Catholic Church before he found Jesus, I have to keep in mind the words of a very holy priest named Fr. Benedict Groeschel who said, “Better the man who finds Jesus Christ apart from the Catholic Church than the man who finds the Catholic Church apart from Jesus Christ.”

But, there are other things to say about his sermon:

And let me say this, I’m really sympathetic, because I didn’t know how to pray. I was raised a marginal, jacked, Irish-Catholic boy. So the prayers I knew how to pray were all formal prayers by important dead people. So I knew how to pray the Act of Contrition and the Hail Mary. I did learn the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer. I also did learn the Prayer of St. Patrick and the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, but I didn’t know how to pray from my heart. I had no clue.

Mark Driscoll is certainly correct that praying from the heart is an important thing for a Christian to do.  Most evangelicals I have met tend to dislike memorized prayers, and based on the above statement, Mark Driscoll seems to be like most evangelicals I have met.  Assuming I am interpreting his thoughts correctly, from his perspective, praying a prayer that is memorized is praying from one’s head and not from one’s heart.  Although it is certainly possible that a Catholic could be guilty of praying a memorized prayer exclusively in their mind, it is not the intention of the Church to accomplish this end alone.  The Church composed prayers to assist the believer in the deepening of their relationship with God and the perfecting of their spiritual life.

Consider how praying the Act of Contrition might help a… let’s say, mariginal, jacked, Irish Catholic boy deepen his relationship with Jesus Christ.  This prayer will not teach this Irish Catholic Boy the entire body of Christian doctrine, but it will teach him that he is a sinner in need of God to forgive him for all his past sins and in need of God’s grace in his life to help him avoid future sins.  By pondering the words – not just vainly repeating them – this boy will become a devout, God loving, Irish Catholic man.

It is also worth pointing out that saints are much more than “important dead people.”  We do not honor the saints because they did important things for the Church.  We honor the saints because God did amazing things in and through them.  These humble examples show us just how much God can accomplish through a person who is willing to allow God into every aspect of their life.  Some saints had such an intense union with God that their personal prayers which flowed from their hearts were adopted by the people close to them and written down and shared for generations.  These prayers provide a witness to the risen Christ and the amazing things that Grace can do in our lives.

“Lord teach us to pray.”  These words from Jesus’ disciples precede the oldest ‘formal’ prayer in the Church’s history, the Our Father.  It is this humble spirit that must be present in every believer whenever he prays – formally or informally.  It is this humble spirit that will allow God to help him pray these prayers from the depths of his heart.  Lord, teach us to pray!

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.  Amen.

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2 comments on “Sermon Review: Memorized Prayers

  1. Christian says:

    In my catechism class, we open each meeting with a prayer, usually:

    Glory Be, or
    Hail Mary, or
    Our Father, or
    Act of Contrition.

    On most occasions, after finishing the prayer I ask the kids to reflect on one of the lines in the prayer, e.g.:

    “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.”

    Where is this in the Bible? Who said to whom? Why does it matter? Why do we say it now? That sort of thing. By year’s end they are aware of the fuller meanings of the prayers, and not engaging in “vain repetition.”

  2. Christian says:

    More:

    We are created body and soul, a unity. One reason I like it when everyone prays out loud is that we are all praying together, bodies and souls. If one person prays an ad-lib prayer (which I find to effectively be as repetitious as a memorized prayer) out loud while the rest are quiet, I don’t get the same sense of corporate participation.

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