Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The More Westernized a Person Is, the Less They Pray

Image result for john piippo mission
Western Wall, Jerusalem

This excerpt is from my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

When encouraging people to pray, as conversation-with-God, I often hear the following expressed by Westernized Jesus-followers: “I don’t have time to pray thirty-sixty minutes a day, five days a week.” However, if the Jesus-follower is from a Third World country, like ancient Israel during the time of Jesus, they do have time to pray. What’s going on?

In my research over a period of four decades I have found that the more Westernized a person is, the less they take time to meet and talk with God. And, the less Westernized a person is, the more they take time to meet and talk with God. 

I estimate that 80% of European and North   American pastors and Christian leaders do not have a significant prayer life. By this I mean that they do not take time to actually pray. By “taking time” I mean more than saying a blessing over dinner, or multi-tasked praying. By “significant” I mean something like Jesus did, habitually.

The statistics flip for pastors and leaders who are from Third World contexts. Eighty percent of them have a significant prayer life. When they attend my prayer and spiritual formation classes they already have a quantitative praying life. They pray… a lot. European and North American clergy, on the other hand, find themselves “too busy to pray.” They find it a struggle to fit in times of actual praying. Why is this so?

The reasons Westernized Christians don’t significantly pray, and Third World Christians do, are:

1. SENSE OF NEED:   More access to human helping agencies lowers the desperation level. When I was, e.g., teaching and speaking in India, the lack of access to medical care, education, jobs, etc., was massive. One could only turn to God, in prayer. So, in India, I found pastors who were praying people. The less felt need there is, the less one prays; the more felt need there is, the more one prays.

2. NEED TO CONTROL: Westernized Christians live under the general cultural illusion that they are in control of life; Third World, non-westernized Christians live in a cultural milieu where human control is minimal at best; hence, they appeal to God (or gods, or spirits) for help. The more one feels in control of life, the less one prays; the less one feels in control of life, the more one prays.

3. TIME: The more stuff a person has, the less they pray. This is because much of their life is dictated by their possessions, which demand time organizing, protecting, arranging, storing, repairing, cleaning, cultivating, displaying, flaunting, wearing, etcing. Stuff demands time. On the other hand, the fewer possessions a person has, the more actual time they have to pray. The more stuff one has, the less one has time to pray; the less stuff one has, the more one has time to pray.

The typical European and North American Jesus-follower may have little felt need. They may have submitted to the illusion that they control things, and are likely afflicted with the burnout-busyness that follows. And, they have so much stuff, which requires time to maintain. When these three elements converge, the God-relationship is virtually gone.

The good news is that forty percent of my students acquire a lifelong prayer habit, as a result of my classes. So, twenty percent increases to forty percent.

Piippo, John. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 4142-4167). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

My recent book is Leading the Presence-Driven Church.