I Must Increase

Have you ever noticed how our prayers often revolve around building our little corner of the world? ‘Lord, please bless my…’ ‘Lord, increase my…’ ‘Lord, give me more…’

Perhaps we don’t see ourselves as this bold and presumptious, but it often turns out this way. I know many of my prayers ask (tell?) God to improve my situation. Remember the big thing a few years back was the ‘Prayer of Jabez,’ the book that encouraged readers to seek to ‘expand’ their own personal universe?

The words of John the Baptist are telling. ‘He must increase, I must decrease.’ John was not asking for expansion but a downscaling; not a promotion but a demotion.

The trouble is, God takes John up on the request. Not more than a few verses later, poor John’s head is severed like a conejo. St. Teresa of Avila questioned the Lord as to why she had to endure the suffering she did to which the Lord replied, “Teresa, that’s how I treat my friends” Teresa responded, “No wonder you have so few friends.”

What would Jabez say? The trouble with these blasted saints is that they are lousy at selling books.

7 thoughts on “I Must Increase

  1. Ha Ha! My pastor blew us away with a Bible study last night during which he stated that rather than us asking God to increase our territory, we need to ask Him to increase His territory in us.

  2. I like whay Fr. Neo said about the craze of Jabez. I worked in a Christian bookstore during that mess, and I must say that it was disturbing.

    I also have recently been thinking about this, and have heard a sermon on the subject. I like the John the Baptist way, but I also think it is necessary to examine Matthew 21:21-22. As always, there are no safe, simple, or pat answers.

  3. Fr. Neo,

    I appreciate your insights into the nature of prayer, and I think you are right on. How do we get out of this habit of praying for nothing but ourselves? Have you ever found it much more satisfying to pray for others?



  4. Methinks you’re too hard on Wilkinson and Jabez. After reading the book, I thought the “increased territory” (and Jabez’s prayer) meant for God to indeed increase in our lives. Just because some in the culture took it to different levels doesn’t mean this was the intention of the author (or Jabez).

    Incidentally, Chuck Colson refers to St. Teresa of Avila on the last page of the latest Christianity Today. Evangelicals quoting saints…I thought we had no depth?

  5. hi all,

    indeed ryan, I always find it more fulfilling to pray for others. I usually find myself praying more for others than myself because I never know what my true needs are, I just leave that up to God.

    It is funny you are talking about prayer, since it is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I have been trying to expand my understanding of prayer past the traditional evangelical stuff I grew up with. I went to a Islamic mosque a few weeks ago to talk to the people there and I stayed for the evening prayer. I felt awed as I watched them pray. There was no sound except that of those praying and chanting to God. There prayers are just meant to honor and praise God, and to seperate themselves from the world. It was really moving, and I was humbled as I thought about how little time I spend just exalting and honoring God in my prayers.

  6. WIGIAT,

    We Christians have prayed like that (quiet, regular, chanting, etc.) for centuries. Daily, fixed, regular prayer came from the children of Israel and the followers of Jesus centuries before Islam. We have been conditioned in some circles to be satisfied with the prayer of the just–‘Lord I just come before you, Lord, and I just…’ rather than to tap into the centuries old prayers of those who have gone before us. E.g. there are no prayers richer than those found in the Book of Common Prayer (especially the version of 1662).

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