Tag: prayer

In a recent article in “Cracked”, author Kristi Harrison laments the “4 specific things you lose when you leave Christianity“. The author describes her own de-conversion experience from faith into agnosticism, which began with a disbelief in angels. “Once I realized I didn’t believe in human-shaped beings from Heaven who could appear on Earth to pass along Godmail before hightailing it back to Heaven, a domino chain of disbelief was set in place.

Having made the leap of faith into unbelief, she now identifies four things she really misses. We might turn the emphasis around to say that there are some specific things you gain when you enter the Christian faith. Here are the ones mentioned Ms. Harrison:

1. “Getting High on Worship”: The author found worship to be an “addictive and engaging” experience. She noted a CNN article reporting that “Religious thoughts trigger reward systems like love, drugs”. She concludes by saying “You lose your sense of self and feel like you’re blending in with the Universe or feeling God’s presence, depending on your cultural background and what you’re going for. If that’s not getting high, I don’t what is.”

2. “Culture and Community”: You have an organized support system that is like a family.

3. “Magic”: “The hook of Evangelical Christianity is that believers have access to the creator of Universe just by asking for it. You don’t have to be rich, literate, clean, pretty, smart, or a non-murderer to talk to Him. God is for everyone. The idea of a personal God who can take away disease and reunite you with loved ones after death is intoxicating. … The ability to hand over your deepest problems to someone else is Christianity’s killer app, one that has absolutely no equivalent in the secular world.”

4. A cosmic “Best Friend”.

Ms. Harrison stops there. Here are some more that we might add:

5. Health: People of faith are healthier, and this is seen in countless studies. Relevant Magazine opines “If religious faith could be packaged in a pill, the stock price of drug companies would soar. Religion, not merely spirituality, is a profound predictor of health. Spiritual practices can reduce blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and help stave off some effects of mental illness about as well as many drugs on the market.” (The article is entitled “The Surprising Link Between Faith and Health“). You can be a Christian and still die (we all do), but even in facing death and calamity, studies show that you will have more peace and less anxiety.

6. Truth: I don’t just mean that Christianity reveals truth about the universe, human nature, and our ultimate destiny. These are “truths” with a little T, many of which are unknowable and could only be revealed by a behind-the-scenes Creator (their relevance depends on accepting the premise that God is real and has “spoken though the prophets”). I mean to speak of “Truth” itself–with a capital T. Christianity emerged out of the only ancient culture where truthfulness had a religious basis. Christianity’s chief personage stated “I am Truth.” It could be argued that the truthfulness we expect of ourselves and others in society, while it has pragmatic value, is nevertheless also a hangover from prior generations dominated by Christianity and the “10 Commandments.” It is not universal.

Furthermore, arguments can be made that truth requires us to presume something at the outset of seeking it, something that inexorably implies some kind of God. To trust our senses and mental capacities to understand the universe is to assume God (see the design argument in Robert Taylor’s Metaphysics).

Additionally, the fact that the universe exploded into being from a point in time and space makes little sense without an eternal Godlike being that exists outside our universe–you can say, “uh-uh” all you like, but the alternative is some brand of spontaneous generation, which to accept is to embrace illogic and to mar truth at its intellectual foundation, and on a cosmological scale at the very origin of everything.

7. Meaning: Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche and others have known and expounded on the lack of ultimate meaning and significance in a life free of God–you gain freedom to write your own rules but lose that sense of meaning. Their powerful writings have prodded many a Christian’s de-conversion experience (very nearly my own at one point, when I was a college student). I believe their thesis on this point. It is intellectually dishonest to cling to meaning after ejecting God from your life, and people really know this, deep down inside, in their moments of disquiet, which they try very hard to suppress. You have a choice to believe the Shakespearean line that our lives “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, or to believe that our lives have a higher meaning. We have written of this here. In the absence of clear proof, do you choose to embrace a dark story, or a beautiful story?

8. An answer to the “Problem of Evil” (Of course you get the “Problem of Evil” also): The dagger into the heart of Christianity is the problem of how God can be all-powerful, all-loving, and yet allow suffering and evil. However the alternative, to dismiss suffering and evil as simply part of the human condition, is not very satisfying. Christianity gives you a God of love who deeply cares about you and wants your best. Most astoundingly of all, you have a God who suffered also, more than anyone can imagine. This brings us to Love:

9. Love: Above all, Love is the ultimate thing we gain when we embrace Christianity–Love on a cosmic scale that is simultaneously deeply personal. The Bible says that “God is love.” God’s love for us is a costly love, and its most powerful moment is the sacrifice of the Heavenly Father’s own Beloved on a cross of wood. God’s love is not cheap!

Let’s turn our attention now from sinner to saint. On this day many churches observe the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, called in England “Michaelmas”. In Christian tradition Michael is the chief of the angels–spiritual beings who act as messengers and agents of God. Michael is especially associated with spiritual warfare and defense against the invisible forces of darkness.

Prayer (Anglican):
O EVERLASTING God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels alway do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer (Roman Catholic, short version):
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Further reading:
Historic UK
English Book of Common Prayer Online.
Tradition in Action (additional prayers from the Roman Catholic tradition).

God our Father
You sent Saint Patrick
to preach your glory to the people of Ireland.
By the help of his prayers,
may all Christians proclaim your love to all men.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

(Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, from the website www.churchyear.net)

(Image credit: Saint Patrick stained glass window from Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland, CA. Posted to FLICKR by user SICARR, obtained from Wikimedia Commons.)

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I was looking at children’s prayers for bedtime, and came across something very interesting.  One of the common prayers that has made it into compendiums of nursery rhymes and children’s prayers is the “Four Corners” prayer.  A common form of this prayer goes something like this:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on. Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
One to watch and one to pray
And two to bear my soul away.

The rhyme dates back to at least the 1600s in Britain, and is likely much older.  A German version dates to medieval times.  The first English text is found in a treatise on witchcraft, where the verse is mentioned in a negative context.

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There were several “paternosters” (derived from Latin for “our father”), which were associated with colors, perhaps initially associated with colored prayer beads.  These poems are thought to be corruptions of prayers that became used as magic charms.  The “white Paternoster” (a version of which is found in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale of 1387) was used for morning.  The “black paternoster” was used at bedtime.  A “green paternoster” was earlier condemned as blasphemous by the Bishop of Lincolon, Robert Grosseteste, 1175–1253.

Somehow, the “black paternoster” escaped the anti-witchcraft and anti-catholic sentiments of the 17th century to become a favorite children’s rhyme in England, esp in the 20th century.  Perhaps this may be credited to Anglican priest, scholar and hymn-writer, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924.

Sabine_Baring-Gould,_age_35

He published it as part of a collection of folksongs called Songs of the West, first published in 1891 (This book is now freely available in the public domain: https://archive.org/stream/imslp-and-ballads-of-the-west-baring-gould-sabine/SIBLEY1802.20102.74b4-39087012501252score_djvu.txt)

The poem has been set to music by the composer Gustav Holst, 1874-1934 (of “the Planets” fame).  Here is a snippet of a recording by the Holst Singers, under Stephen Layton.


The full version is available for sale, by Hyperion records, http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/tw.asp?w=W1077.

Sources: Images are from Wikipedia.  The lovely painting is “Four corners to my bed” by Isobel Lilian Gloag (1868-1917))