The Fallacy of “Prayer Techniques”

1427667_31525848Eugene Peterson writes something brilliant. Okay most of what he writes is brilliant but especially this:

“In our technology-saturated culture, we frequently request help by asking, “How do I pray? Or even worse, “How do I pray effectively?” The question distorts what is fundamentally a personal relation into an impersonal technique”.

What Peterson is reacting against is our technique-driven mentality. That if we just get the technique right, the outcome will be right. That all we need to master is the mechanics for us to muster up the right result.

And this is fine in some things, but this doesn’t work in relationships. Relationships aren’t a means to an end. Relationships aren’t about efficiency and effectiveness; relationships are about intimacy. And this matters in prayer.

There is nothing wrong with trying to grow in prayer, and devoting yourself to it. But if all you focus on is the “right techniques, tips, and tricks” your prayer life won’t grow but will become stagnant. Because techniques do not develop a relationship, time does. Tips don’t make a covenant, commitment does. Tricks don’t increase intimacy, interaction does. 

So while there is nothing wrong with techniques, tips, and tricks in some things – it doesn’t relate well to prayer. Because prayer is fundamentally about a relationship. It is a conversation, it is an intimacy, and it is an interaction with God. And Eugene Peterson is right when we come to prayer first from a standpoint of technique, we’ve already missed the point. And I would say we end up missing God. Prayer isn’t a technique but a personal relationship that needs to be invested in, cherished, and grown in. Techniques can help, sure, but they are not a substitute for time and growth.

So my challenge to all of us, myself included, is this: rather than focusing on the techniques, and methods of prayer ~ focus on Jesus and the relationship. Because I think Peterson is right “In our technology-saturated culture, we frequently request help by asking, “How do I pray? Or even worse, “How do I pray effectively?” The question distorts what is fundamentally a personal relation into an impersonal technique”.

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