Sunday, June 30, 2024

Doubleminded Prayer

Growing up, from time to time my father would assign me a job of one sort or another around the house. I doubt my unskilled service was overly helpful; he probably had to redo most of my work after I finished. But the tasks were a training exercise. Dad knew his children needed to learn that life was not all road hockey games, good books and model kits.

I was less-than-entirely keen on learning the discipline of service. I used to drag my feet, complaining that I didn’t understand what was required, didn’t have the proper tools I needed to do the job, or couldn’t possibly be expected to operate that dangerous-looking lawnmower thingy with no prior experience. The object, naturally, was to get out of having to do it at all.

At such times my father would simply say, “Stop quaddling and get to it.”

Say What?

I’ve never heard the expression from anyone but members of my family, and most dictionaries do not include it, but “quaddling” really is a word. It turns out to be Cornish slang, so it probably came from my mother’s side rather than my dad’s. From Paul Anthony Jones at the Haggard Hawks etymology website, the definition of “quaddle”:

“When they fall ill, some people are able to keep their problems to themselves and bravely battle on regardless. Others on the other hand turn into insufferable hypochondriacs, only too eager to ensure that everyone nearby knows of their troubles. Those people are quaddles — and what they are doing is quaddling.”

Further research suggests quaddling may also refer to “The period of time before making a decision where one is frantically questioning or contemplating a situation or conundrum, while pacing back and forth.” This is certainly how my dad used it. Quaddling is a combination of procrastination and indecision, but with a verbal component that tends to drive people crazy. When you quaddle, expect to hear either “Make up your mind”, “Please shut up” or possibly both.

A Model Prayer?

That’s pretty much how I feel about this “model prayer” I came across a couple of days ago:

“Perhaps this prayer can be a model for us when we are tempted to nurture our lust. We may not desire to quit, but we may desire to desire to quit. In those times, we can pray:

Dear Jesus,

I don’t want to give up my sin, but I want to want to give up my sin. Please shape my heart and bend my will to align with yours. Not my will, but yours be done.


“Desire to desire”? “Want to want”? Oy.

Let me say at the outset that I very much dislike the use of the Lord’s words in the Garden of Gethsemane in the context of temptation to lust. The agony our Savior experienced prior to carrying out the Father’s will had no moral component such as we may experience during temptation. He was “tempted as we are, yet without sin”. In his prayer, the Lord did not even hint at insubordination or advance the thought of walking away from a task he had willingly taken on. He simply inquired whether his Father might be willing to remove the cup of suffering he was about to drink to its dregs. Then, strengthened for the task, he carried on with it.

Great Waves of Apathy

Sorry, but being tempted to nurture lust is not that. Not at all. Here the Lord was sweating, as it were, great drops of blood while expressing unbending faith in his Father: “All things are possible for you.” Our “model prayer” is so indifferent in tone that the person praying it can’t even claim the desire to quit nurturing lust yet. Instead of great drops of blood, this guy emits great waves of apathy. If we don’t care, why should the Lord?

This is what we might call “prayer quaddling” or “doubleminded prayer”. I can tell you with a fair bit of confidence such a request will not receive the desired response, if we can even figure out what that is. As James puts it, “That person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Why might that be, you may well ask. Didn’t Paul say, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”? Why wouldn’t the Lord just shape your heart and bend your will to align with his if that’s what you are asking for?

What Do You Want?

Possibly because he doesn’t do that sort of thing to his children. The Greek word translated “want” or “will” is not just an expression of preference but resolution. It has more to do with a decision you make than how you feel about it, which is very much a secondary concern. Asking in faith requires that we know what we want and that it really matters to us. You can’t ask in faith for the personal resolve to quit an evil habit while prefacing your request with the candid acknowledgement that you are hoping for a different outcome. If you do, you’re not really praying yet. You’re just quaddling.

Sure, the Lord grants boldness to the fearful, strengthens the weak and increases the faith of those seeking to do his will, but I see no biblical evidence he creates that faith and resolve ex nihilo, especially when they are not earnestly desired.

When confronted on the streets with requests, the Lord’s first question on more than one occasion was “What do you want?” He said it to the blind men by the roadside who called out to him. He said it to the mother of James and John. Of course he already knew why they were there, but it was important to him to hear that desire clearly expressed. Even the father who cried out “Help my unbelief!” prefaced the request with “I believe.” He was looking for more of what he already had, not asking to have his will and heart shaped and bent in ways contrary to his own desires. You may notice in the Gospels that everyone whose faith the Lord Jesus ever commended was exceedingly defined. They knew what they wanted and went after it.

The man in Romans 7 who is struggling with sin, flesh against Spirit, hates his own actions, agrees with the law that condemns him, and desires to do what is right. He knows what he wants; he just has consistent trouble executing. For him, deliverance through Christ is right around the corner.

The man who lacks desire to give up his sin but wants to flap his gums about it to God is not in that state yet. He hasn’t figured out what he really wants. Perhaps he does not yet know who and what he is.

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