You Are What You Pray


You Are What You Pray
Brian Zahnd

I am a religious person because I pray.

In that sense I have a solidarity with all who pray.

I have more in common with the Egyptian Muslim who prays five times a day than with the European secularist who never prays.

I have more in common with the Indian Hindu who prays to Brahma than with the American consumerist who prays to nothing at all.

I have more in common with the mystic Rumi than with the Deist Jefferson.

(That the majority of American evangelicals feel more at home with an Enlightenment secularist than with a Muslim mystic shows just how secular we really are.)

I am a Christian because I pray as a Christian.

I pray to the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

I pray the prayer Jesus gave his disciples to pray.

I pray the prayers of the Church.

How we pray is how we are formed.

The Hindu is formed by Hindu prayers.

The Jew is formed by Jewish prayers.

The Christian is formed by Christian prayers.

The Muslim is formed by Muslim prayers.

The secularist is formed by not praying.

Those who refuse to pray the liturgical prayers of a received tradition are on the verge of becoming a secularist.

They have followed the dictates of Voltaire and Jefferson and rejected the authority of religious tradition.

They endorse Voltaire’s cynicism and Jefferson’s scissors.

If they pray at all, they pray their own prayers, which is to say, they’re not being formed by prayer—
They’re only wishing.

They wish for what they want and call it prayer.

Window shopping imagined as prayer.

This is the prayer of the consumerist, the secularist, the atheist.

But Christian tradition knows better.

The primary purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what you want him to do—
But to be properly formed.

We are formed as Christian people as we pray Christian prayers.

“When you pray, say…” -Jesus


O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)