Monday, April 24, 2017

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The Power of Prayer, Hollywood Style

Recently my wife and I got to go out one Saturday evening by ourselves. This is quite a rare event for us so we seized the opportunity and elected to go have dinner and see a movie in the theatre.

I was unprepared for the religious experience I was about to have watching this epic film

The movie was incredibly exciting! You could see the awesome power of prayer at work in this film. The good guys were down and out against the forces of darkness. A divine miracle was needed, and since Chanukah recently concluded, miracles were on my brain. The good guys prayed with passion and they prayed in unison. Their lives were spared, the enemy was defeated, and balance was restored. It was a miracle! The awesome power of prayer was on display for all to see.

Except the entire prayer concept was anti-Biblical and the “god” was a tree (I think). Not exactly a model for us to follow as disciples of Yeshua.

The movie we saw was the recent SciFi blockbuster “Avatar.” The film will be heralded as a great achievement. It certainly was very entertaining and worth seeing. While I don’t want to ruin the plot of the film for you it was basically a fusion of the Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Disney’s Atlantis and blue aliens.

If you do see it you might be like me and can’t help but notice the strong religious themes. Strong pagan themes, to be precise. Let’s see if anyone hoping for a secular America complains about being subjected to religious themes in this movie (not likely because Yeshua was nowhere to be found except in curse words).

Anyway, the concept of prayer was simple in the movie: ask the “earth goddess” whose conduit via prayer was a tree (I think) and if your petition is worthy she/it/they just might grant the petition. Chant and do your dance and hold hands and the spirit of the tree will act on your behalf.

What a contrast this is to the prayer Yeshua taught us (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4). It is somewhat of a misnomer to call it the “Lord’s Prayer” because in fact Yeshua was teaching his disciples how to pray. When we taught on this topic for the gospel harmony series (audio available), our conclusions were that the prayer was (a) an abstract (i.e., shortened version) of a traditional Jewish prayer called the Amidah, and (b) a request to help us surrender to the Lord’s will (i.e., what God wants for us). Quite different from a theme of asking inanimate objects/energy flows to “save the green” or treating the Almighty like a cosmic Santa Claus.

You see I don’t believe in the power of prayer (heresy, I know). Prayer itself has no power, as prayer is really just a conversation. But in speaking of prayers to the Lord himself, the prayer itself is not where the power rests. The power rests in God and God alone. While the prayer of a righteous man is powerful (James 5:16), without the King of the Universe answering the prayer, it is nothing more than electrochemical impulses and compressions/rarefactions of air (i.e., sound).

Our trust is in the Lord himself, not in prayer itself. In your own prayer life, don’t follow the examples we see in society. But let us follow the examples we have in God’s revelation to us: the Scriptures. And the “Lord’s Prayer” is one of the best places I know to start.

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