Feelings and Prayer

“Feelings are the scourge of prayer.  To pray by feelings is to be at the mercy of glands and weather and digestion.  And there is no mercy in any of them.  Feelings lie.  Feelings deceive.  Feelings seduce.  Because they are so emphatically there, and so incontrovertibly interior, it is almost inevitable that we take our feelings seriously as reputable guides to the reality that is deep within us – our hearts before God.

“But feelings are no more spiritual than muscles.  They are entirely physical.  They are real, and they are important.  But they are real and important in the same way that our fingernails and noses are important – we would not want to live without them (although we could if we had to), but their length and shape and color tell us nothing about our life with God.  To suppose that our emotions in any way give us reliable evidence of the nature or quality of our life with God is to misinterpret them.  They are wonderful and necessary and glorious.  They are part of the rich and stunning complexity of the human being in the image of God.  We must value and develop and share them.  But they are not prayer.”  Eugene Peterson, Answering God (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989), 87.


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