There is a subtle trend in popular culture to gently ease out the word “prayer” as part of our vocabulary. Maybe you haven’t noticed. Prayer hasn’t disappeared - yet, but the idea of sending “positive thoughts” is preferable. In a secular culture, prayer is too closely aligned with religious types so a number of creative euphemisms are slowly being adopted. What’s the attraction of taking things into our own hands and sending positive thoughts instead of advocating petitionary prayer?
Positive thoughts avoid any religious baggage. You communicate your care and concern without offending anyone. We still tap into something powerful - beyond us, while leaving the door open to a natural explanation. No doubt there’s a pychological impact of direct positive reinforcement but sending “positive thoughts” suggests action at a distance. The idea: our minds generate thoughts that may do some good to someone, somewhere. Also, we can reject prayer and retain hope. If we’re deeply troubled by a situation beyond our control we don’t have to give up. There’s still a chance we can influence the outcome. In fact, if we work together we can make the world a better place. Collective effort ensures an evolutionary trend that is onward and upward. At the end of the day, positive thoughts offer an easy way out. We are in control. We have the power. Yet we don’t have to do anything difficult or make any real effort. A positive reaction to a troubling situation is enough for us to have done our part so we can feel better about ourselves.
So is the power of prayer really on the way out? Well, there are a few problems with promoting the power of positive thoughts to generate action at a distance.
Positive thoughts are vague enough to avoid offending anyone – and vague enough to avoid doing anything. The idea our thoughts alone can impact situations out of reach is more science fiction than science. There is no good reason to believe positive thoughts released into the (impersonal) ether will help real people living in the real world. Sending positive thoughts is an attractive idea but it has more to do with easing our conscience than helping others.
The biblical model of prayer has survived for thousands of years with good reason. Prayer is personal - person to a person - and God has planted something within us that longs to reach out to him. There will always be a desire for the creature to call on the Creator, the one who controls the Universe. Prayer is powerful because it is not anchored in ourselves. Prayer is secured in the Almighty God who created us, cares for us and longs for us to reach out to him. God invites our prayers – for ourselves and others. God hears our prayers. God answers our prayers. The power of prayer is placing everything in his hands and experiencing the peace of God as we trust him to guide and provide in accordance with his good plan and purpose.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Author and speaker.