There are two theological words that can help us understand both the difference between and a dependence upon having a sound, biblical definition of prayer and a practical exercise of prayer:
1. Orthodoxy – literally: “right praise” or “right belief” (as opposed to error and heresy). To be orthodox in your faith implies that your beliefs are founded exclusively in and on Scripture. If that is the case, then it also means that your fundamental beliefs are in line with the historical Christian faith that has been recognized, proclaimed, and supported by the teachings, creeds, and liturgy of the Church over the last 2,000+ years. What we embrace and claim to be an orthodox faith must be a part of the “common faith” or “common salvation” that was taught by the apostles and writers of Scriptures. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus,
Ephesians 2:20–21 — having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
And we find more on this in Jude 3-4:
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
See also Titus 1:4.
2. Orthopraxy – means reflective, responsive action, or the practical expression of truth. It literally means: “right practice.” As we learn “orthodoxy,” we learn to live it out and experience it = “orthopraxy.”
Why are these words important, you ask? Because your theology of prayer determines your belief, that is, your view of prayer, which determines:
- Your mode or method of prayer
- Your frequency and length of time in prayer
- Your attitude towards and during prayer
- Who you are praying to
- How you think God sees you when you pray to Him
- What you should and should not pray
- What you do after you pray—hope, faith, actions.
The How, Why, What, When, and Where you pray is based on your theology of prayer, which is what you believe to be true about prayer (orthodoxy) and thus how you put your beliefs into practice (orthopraxy). Another reason to examine your theology of God and prayer is to make sure that we don’t flip the order of these two theological words. It is always “orthodoxy” and then “orthopraxy.” Correct belief drives and guides correct living.
Be in guard, our Christian culture has has a way of putting Orthopraxy before Orthodoxy, which is putting personal experience as the driving influence of what and how we believe. Let me repeat this: We should never let our experiences, including those we tag “religious” or “spiritual,” define and guide how, why, and what we pray. Feelings and experiences will change and deceive you. Let the scriptures frame and guide you in prayer.
- Do I know enough about what the Scripture says on the subject of prayer to know if my prayers are biblical?
- Have I accepted any non-biblical influences or ideas into my theology of prayer?
More on this issue coming.