Petitionary prayer : proof or trust

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Leanne Van Dyk


In an essay on prayer, Kathleen Norris points out that Scripture's best advice on prayer is from Psalm 46: "Be still, and know that I am God!" Yet, it is hard to be content with this biblical guideline. We want to know if prayer  "works," if it is "effective." Norris adds that our prayers stumble over a peculiarly American disposition, "a remarkably ingenuous belief in our ability to set goals and attain them as quickly as possible" (Amazing Grace, 61).

This resilient American attitude is seen beyond Christian settings. Norris reports a New Age group who advertises its creed with similar assumptions. ·Somewhat inelegantly it states: "I can create my own reality and that sending out a positive expectation will bring a positive result." In this respect, the nineteenth-century British study on hospital patients reported by Myers, the various twentieth-century studies on cardiac care patients, and the creed of New Age devotees share a common disposition- the desire to prove and measure the effectiveness of prayer (or positive thinking), and the assumption that such proof is appropriate and possible.

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How to Cite
Van Dyk, L. (1999). Petitionary prayer : proof or trust. Reformed Review, 53(2). Retrieved from