Monday, May 11, 2015

Christian Cop Out #1 - "Let Me Pray About It"

Welcome to a new series highlighting one of the most offensive trends in modern Christianity. My purpose is not to make you doubt the sincerity of the people around you, but to encourage each of us to examine ourselves and ensure that we're not the offenders. Psalm 139:23.

Christ and the Adulteress, Lucas Cranach the Elder, via Wikimedia Commons

Christian Cop Out #1 - "Let me pray about it." 

Almost any Christian anywhere, when asked to do anything in the church, will give this standard response: "Let me pray about it." It's a good answer. Ministry is tough, and it shouldn't be entered into on a whim. 

But if "Let me pray about it" is really shorthand for "Let me buy some time before I say no so that nobody thinks I'm being unspiritual," then we have a problem.

The problem isn't so much that you want to say no to something. After all, even Jesus said no to other people's well-intentioned (but misguided) ideas about what they thought he should be doing. 

So saying no to a good opportunity for a good reason isn't necessarily a sin.

But saying that you're going to pray about something without any real intention of following through makes you a hypocrite and a liar. That's serious enough, but there's actually a deeper problem at work. What you're really admitting is that you don't want to want to consider it. 

The reasoning goes like this: if you pray about it, God might change your mind about it, and then you'd have to do it. Since you don't want to want to do it, it's simpler just to reject the opportunity out of hand. But you can't admit that out loud, because that would really be unspiritual.

So what do you do? You say you're going to pray about it. That way when you turn the person down the next week, he'll think it's Jesus saying no, not you. 

Let's say maybe you actually do say a quick prayer at least once before the next Sunday, just so you're not technically a liar.

Fair enough. 

But there's a difference between sending up a perfunctory prayer to get out of a guilt loophole and really praying about something. Going to your knees and humbling yourself before the Father, spreading the issue out in full and wrestling against the old nature until you reach the same conclusion that Jesus reached in Gethsemane: Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours.

If that's what you really mean when you say you're going to pray about it, then by all means, go for it.

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