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Using Prayer for Effective Living
Or we can think of this as...
using prayer for problem solving (to make things better),
using prayer so you can be used more effectively by God
so you can live more effectively in everything you do.


Added Value – This is a temporary message [that originally was intended to be here only through October, and will be moved elsewhere in mid-April] for our Home Group Family from Vineyard Anaheim:

I think our discussion will be more enjoyable and edifying if you've read my 1-Page Overview so you already know the ideas, and have done some pre-thinking about them.  If you're curious, wanting to explore these ideas (and others), some places you may find interesting are...   pray for everything but don't pray constantly  –  connections between joy and faith and being thankful for your life-situation (for example, if I didn't feel “trapped in Anaheim”)  –  you should want God to be your Friend and your Lord  –  wanting God to be active in your life - instead of thinking “I've got this now” and living without God  –  my personal experiencing of “evidence” for God's activity  –  Tough Questions for Education (and thus for me)  –  3 Perspectives on Problem-Solving Process  –  in the yellow box below, an Overview.     {and you can read Diane's overview-summary}


In an e-mail message about our discussion, I said

    This week, Oct 4, will be a continuation of our first two weeks together.  {purple text is quoted from overviews written by Diane and me}
    Sep 20, Diane reminded us that "God will fight our battles" (Exo 14:14, Deut 1:30) so "we do not have to anguish, be anxious, or be discouraged when bad things happen in our lives" because "no problem is beyond the scope of God’s sovereign care for His children."  Similarly, my overview begins with Exodus 17:11, with God showing the Israelites then, and us now, that "what happens depends on what humans do (with Moses praying + Joshua fighting) plus what God does."
    Sep 27, as in May, Scott reminded us that we should talk with God and ask Him for help.  Similarly, the main motivation for my overview was me "learning from experience" that when "my actions were not effective" often there was "not enough prayer" by me — leading to "justifiable humility" about my actions & prayers — so I’ve been trying to persuade myself (as in my overviews) with "reasons to pray."
    And I included a Study Question:  Scott asked, “in Genesis 3 when Eve & Adam had an important decision, what should they have done?”   I think “obey” is a correct answer, but “talk with God and ask for wisdom” is better.  Why?  It seems to me that one of my paragraphs describes why, so my questions are:  “Do you also see this in a paragraph?  and do you agree?”
    btw,  If you disagree with anything I’ve written, feel free to tell me (by email) or tell us (during our discussion) so we can talk about it and learn from each other, as one aspect of our fellowship.

And although this page is “religious”, it's part of my website about Education for Problem Solving that is intended to be useful for all educators, including those who are in situations that don't allow explicitly religious ideas in classrooms, so I say...


The ideas in this page – about using prayer – will be useful for some people and in some educational situations.
Living a Worldview:  A person's worldview is their view of the world, used for living in the world.  A person who is a theist — who believes (unlike an atheist) that God exists, and (unlike a deist) that God actively “does things” in the world — has a theistic worldview.  But if a theist, in their thinking-and-actions, lives as if God is not active, they are not living their worldview, they are not using "their view of the world" {or at least the view they claim to believe} for "living in the world."  Instead they are using an atheistic/deistic worldview {so is this what they actually believe?} for their everyday living.
Why am I writing about prayer?  Here are two answers, general [based on "Living a Worldview"] and personal, .....  {to be continued after the gray box}
The purpose of this “big picture” overview is to quickly-and-clearly explain what IS and ISN'T being proposed by me (Craig Rusbult, living on a road less traveled), to avoid misunderstandings.  Most ideas are explained more thoroughly when you click a link for "more" (in my two web-pages, later in this left-side page (by "Supplementing The Overview") and in its right-side partner`)* or for "slides" (in my PowerPoint Outline, used in January 2018 for an academic Talk plus Q-and-A, that is similar to this Web-Page Overview, yet different).   And a shorter 1-page Overview is more pastoral (with less about “education” and more on “edification”), was used for a mini-sermon in May 2018.   {a summary of pros & cons for each Overview} {and also for Supplementing The Overview (later in this page) and for the right-side page}

* Or you can open only one page – left or right – if you have a small screen or an iPad.

Here are two possible strategies for reading:  you may want to...
  1a. read this Overview without clicking any links,  and then
  1b. re-read this Overview and, if you want to learn more, click a link for "more" or "slides".
  2. Or first read the 1-page Overview, and then do 1a/1b.
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this OVERVIEW continues by asking...
Why am I writing about prayer?

Here are two answers, general and personal:


Generally, I have faith that theists (especially Christian theists) will live better when they live their worldview, and I'm hoping this page will encourage them to ask God for help with everything they do (i.e., with their problem-solving activities, whenever they're trying to “make things better”)* because they believe that God can help them improve their problem-solving skills & results, and He often will help them improve.   {5slides(03-07) – i.e., 5 slides, #3 to #7 in my PowerPoint Outline}


Personally, I've been motivated by many experiences of thinking “oops” after I did an ineffective decision/action, and then asking “why?” so I could learn more from my failure-experience, to help me improve my decisions/actions.  When asking “why?”, usually my answer-for-self was that I had not enough attention-to-process and/or not enough prayer.   {more}

my self-evaluations:  I consider myself (maybe over-confidently) to be expert in describing Problem-Solving Process, and semi-expert in proposing ideas for education, and competent (but you can evaluate this for yourself) in writing about prayer.*  But I'm only a novice in doing prayer, am just trying to be a teach-able learner, to improve;  I'm justifiably humble about my praying, am not feeling “holier than thou, so let me show you how.”   {2slides(02,08) – i.e. 2 slides, #2 and #8}

* I hope you'll find these ideas interesting & useful — despite the current incompleteness, under-examined questions, and IOU's, especially in the right-side page.  Or you can view one page by itself, only the left-side page or right-side page.


Problem Solving and Effective Living

        What?  * I define Problem broadly, as any opportunity to “make things better” in any area of life, so Problem Solving includes almost everything you do in life.  God wants to help you improve everything you do, so He wants to help you improve your problem solving, so you can live more effectively, so you can be used more effectively by God.   {more}
        When?  If you want to improve everything you do — and if you have a theistic worldview so you believe that God will help you more effectively when you pray — then you will want to "pray for everything," as Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6.*   {5slides(03-07)}   {more and more about living with God vs living without God}
        Why?  God wants you to cooperate with Him, to help Him "make things better" in the ways He wants, to pursue His goals that usually (but not always) also are your goals.  For a theist who is praying, the proper attitude is wanting to be used by God, not wanting to use God.  Effective Living, as defined by God, is to BE what God wants, and DO what God wants.  Therefore, your Effective Living will "improve" when you are moving closer to becoming the person God wants you to BE,  and with the actions you DO, you are being more effective in helping God achieve His goals.   {what are the connections between joy & faith & being thankful for your life-situation?}   {3slides(16,24-25)}   {more}
        How?  God solves problems — to make things better in the ways He wants — by combining what we do plus what He does, as illustrated in Exodus 17:11 with human actions (Moses praying + Joshua fighting)* plus God's influencing-of-results.   God's effects can be internal (affecting your heart and mind, in what you feel & think & do) and external (affecting other people, and situations);  all of these effects can lead to better results.   God wants us to wisely combine what He does and what we do, to pray as if everything depended on Him, and do responsible actions (consistent with what we learn from the Bible) as if everything depended on us.     {* notice that praying is an action}   { One purpose of prayer is your personal acknowledging, to God, that you know He is affecting “what happens” and you are inviting His active participation in the world, in ways that are both internal and external. }  {a counter-example is when the author of "Inner Tennis" changed his thinking and decided “I've got this now, God.”}   {more about human+divine cooperative collaboration, with human actions + divine actions}
        * Usually you want to focus on your human actions while you are doing them, so you can do them better.  Therefore, "pray for everything" (as described above)* doesn't mean pray constantly.  Instead, one way to improve your actions (what you think-and-do) is to optimally regulate your thinking, including your thinking about God.   You should not "pray constantly" unless...   {unless your praying lets you "focus on your human actions," as explained in more about two kinds of praying, plus self-regulating your thinking, and using the different benefits of praying before, during, and after your actions. }     {5slides(19-23)}


What is Your Process of Praying?   I say "Your Process of Praying" — not “THE Process of Praying” — because prayer is basically just being with God (to enjoy, listen, talk, think,...) and the ways you do this — as decided by you and Him — are different than how another person does it.  And each person will use different ways of praying in different situations.  There is no “correct formula” for praying, because a process-of-prayer depends on who is praying, and their situation, so there are many ways to pray.   {6slides(16,19-23)}   {more & more}

What is Your Process of Problem Solving?   As with prayer, I say "Your Process of Problem Solving" — not “THE Process of Problem Solving” — because there is no “correct formula” for problem solving.  But there are strategies for how to use problem-solving actions more effectively, with goal-directed flexible improvisation, to form a problem-solving process that is analogous to the goal-directed flexibly improvised actions of a hockey player, but is not like the rigidly choreographed actions of a figure skater.   {8slides(10-13,15,28-30)}   {more - 3 Perspectives on Problem-Solving Process}


What happens?  Does praying really help you make things better?

Based on reading the Bible & believing it — and my personal experiencing of “evidence” for God's activity — I think the answer is YES.*  If you're a theist who is living your worldview, you should believe that what happens will depend on what you do plus what God does, and that both parts will improve when you pray, that

what you do will be better when you pray for your process, and for your thinking, because...

    • when you ask God for help with your process of problem solving, asking “what should I do now?” (so you are paying attention to your process, and are listening for guidance from God), you are more likely to DO each part of an effective problem-solving process — by choosing a worthy problem (so you're using your time wisely), getting accurate understanding (with situation-knowledge & people-empathy) and doing creative-and-critical productive thinking — and doing each part of the process will help you design a problem-solution that is effective because it's a good way to make things better.  {more & more};  and
    • when you ask God for help with your thinking (in each part of the process), God can provide insights to help you think more productively.

what God does will be better when you pray, because...

    • when you ask God for help through His influencing-of-results, thus acknowledging God's ability to "make things better" through His actions, He is more likely to do what you ask, if doing this will help Him pursue His goals for you and for others.


    • when you pause to pray, this “take a break” interlude can be naturally refreshing for your mind and body.
    {more}   {1slide(27)}

* I say “YES, praying does help” but do I really believe this?  During times when I'm not praying enough, am I really believing that “YES, praying does help” and living this worldview-belief?  And if not, why not?  During times of not-enough-prayer, usually I'm overly busy, feeling “too many things to do and not enough time,” so to “get more time” I just DO instead of PRAY-and-DO.  But a better strategy for using prayer (and using time) — if I have faith that "results of prayer" (below) will (above) be better — is with DOING plus PRAYER, with DOING based on PRAYING, because I have faith that my two human actions (PRAY, DO) will make the combination of human actions + divine actions more effective.

How can these unwise decisions — to "just DO instead of PRAY-and-DO" in an effort to "get more time" — be changed?   Currently I have a two-part strategy:  self-persuasion with reasons for praying (as described in this page) to persuade myself that praying does help;  and putting prayers on my daily list of exercises-to-do because "when I'm paying attention to the list I usually do the exercises [and prayers], but I usually don't when I'm ignoring the list."


What are some results of prayer?

When you pray, God can help you improve — can help you BE what He wants, and DO what He wants — in many ways, including...

    your character, when you "hunger and thirst for righteousness" so you want to "be transformed" by God, because you want to become the person He wants you to be, and (with your continuing cooperation) He is doing this transformation, to help you improve your fruits of the Spirit – your love, joy,* kindness, humility, self-control,...  {whats-and-hows of improving character, from the Bible}   {connections between having faith and being thankful and being joyful}
    your understandings of God, yourself, and other people,
    your understandings of life-situations.  (as with “court vision”)
    your compassion for others,
    your love for God and people, actualized in your attitudes, relationships, and actions,
    your wisdom in making decisions about actions;   for situations with people, pray for empathy and self-empathy, asking “what do they want? what do I want?” and “how might we achieve a better win-win result?”;   for effective use of your time (and thus your life, given to you by God), ask “what should I do now? and later?”
    your thinking-and-actions now (in the present) and, if you are learning from your experiences, later (in the future),   {more}
    the results of how your thinking-and-actions affect the life-situations of others & yourself, because the overall results of your thinking-and-actions depend on what you do and what God does.   So... are you-and-God “making it better” for you and for others, in the short term & long term?
   {more}   {1slide(26)}

What is a non-result of prayer?

With prayer, God can help you improve, but He will not make you perfect during Life, so appropriate humility (not too little, not too much) is justifiable.   {more}



Tough Questions for Education:

The ideas in this page, about Using Prayer for Effective Living (overview), are appropriate-and-useful in some educational situations, but not others.

In a private school that is theistic-religious, should we explicitly encourage theistic-religious praying?   if not, why not?   or if yes, as I suggest, how? {by using what kinds of explanations & activities, in what settings:  in classrooms and/or chapel services, and/or...?}   {1slide(17)}

In a public school, should we encourage (or even allow) religious praying that is Christian, Judeo-Christian, Jewish, Islamic, generically monotheistic, or generically religious?  {will our answers differ for public prayers heard by all students, or optional voluntary silent-praying by individual students during generic “quiet times”?}     should we encourage activities like mindful meditation that claim to be non-religious but are similar to prayer in some ways?   should theists meditate? and if yes, how?   {more and more}   {1slide(18)}


IOU – Soon, maybe by the end of 2018, this overview will include a few more ideas.


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Three Overviews – Similar yet Different

For this topic – Using Prayer for Problem Solving – I've written three overviews:  a Web-Page Overview and 1-Page Outline and PowerPoint Overview.

Overall, I think the Web-Page Overview (above) will be more useful for more people.   It briefly explains the main ideas, so it's useful for getting a quick overview.  And if you click its links for "more" you can explore the ideas more deeply,  and then it also will be more complete, with many additional details.


Compared with this Web-Page Overview,...

The 1-Page Overview is shorter.  Its focus is more pastoral (because it was written as an outline-handout for a sermon), with nothing about "questions for education."  It's useful for some purposes — to get a quick overview, and for convenient printing — but not others.

The PowerPoint Overview (made for my Talk plus Questions-and-Responses at an academic conference) has some additional details, even if you don't click links for "more".  It's intended to be self-contained, although it's very incomplete compared with the entire contents of my two web-pages.   Typically it has shorter sentences than in the Web-Page Overview;  each style of writing (with sentences that are shorter or longer) offers benefits, and you may prefer one or the other.

A reading strategy that you may find useful is to:

    • first read the 1-Page Overview,
    • then read the Web-Page Overview without clicking its links (unless something looks especially interesting),
    • and (if you want to continue exploring the ideas) read the PowerPoint Overview, and maybe the talk-Abstract,
    • and then (if you want) read the Web-Page Overview again, but this time clicking links whenever you want to explore.


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Supplementing The Overview

Above, my Overview is intended to "explain what IS and ISN'T being proposed by me, to avoid misunderstandings."  In the rest of this page, the main purpose is to explain some aspects of "what is and isn't" more deeply, AND (although The Overview is more thorough overall) to introduce a few extra ideas that are explored more deeply in the right-side page, Pray so you can Love More Effectively`.


Below, you can read sections in any order you want:  Problem Solving and PrayerProcess of Prayer & Purposes of PrayerHuman Actions plus Divine ActionsPray for Your Problem-Solving Process3 Perspectives on Problem-Solving ProcessRegulate how you Think About Your ThinkingEVIDENCE (does praying really help you improve?)Appropriate Humility.


general Theistic Worldviews:  Both pages probably will be more relevant-and-useful for people who, like me, have a theistic worldview (especially a Christian theistic worldview)* so we believe that God can help us live better in every area of life.

Christian Theistic Worldviews:  Above (in an Overview) I describe prayer in theistic worldviews, but below it's often described in the context of Christian theistic worldviews.

  Diversity in Theistic Worldviews:  Here (*), instead of “The Christian Theistic Worldview”, I say "a Christian theistic worldview" that varies from one person to another, when personal variations are combined with the essential Bible-based principles that should be shared by all Christians.  These Christian theistic worldviews are similar, in many ways but not all, to Judeo-Christian theistic worldviews or Judaic theistic worldviews or (with more diversity) general theistic worldviews.     {as a Christian, do I think that God also helps non-Christians?}   {what about secular “mindful meditation” in public schools?}


Problem Solving and Prayer

Almost everything you do is problem solving — if a problem is defined very broadly as "any opportunity, in any area of life, to make things better" — and always, but especially when you pray, God can help you use a process of problem solving to "make things better" in many ways, for yourself and for other people, so you can cooperate with God to achieve His purposes for you and for them.  God can help you improve your performing (so you think-and-do better now) and/or learning (so you will think-and-do better later, after you have learned from your experiences) and/or enjoying, in any area of life{performing + learning + enjoying}     {IOU - Soon, maybe in November 2018, I will describe a very wide variety of everyday activities – including almost everything you do – that I define as problem solving.}

Relationships: God + (you + a neighbor)

Life with God?  Do you want to live with God or without God?  Each of us should want to always live with God by always including Him (with our praying and in other ways, with our thinking-and-actions) during all of our human situations and human relationships.  But too often we live without God, as shown when you move your mouse over the upper-left part of the diagram.   {more about living with God or without God}   {but praying for everything does not mean praying constantly}

Examples of “living with God” and then “living without God” come from Inner Tennis: Playing the Game, where its author describes a change in his thinking:

    I had reached a kind of resolution to my problem.  I was then going through a religious phase in my adolescence, and I decided to put the question of winning and losing entirely in God's hands.  Before every match I prayed, "Whatever you want, God, is okay with me. It's up to you." ..... [then when he could win a major match with one more point, Timothy Gallwey thought...]  Thank you very much, God, for your help, I said to myself.  I can take it from here!"  What happened in the match, and later in his life?   {more of the story – and my thoughts about it}


Process of Prayer:  How do people pray?  This depends on the person, and their situation, so there are many ways to pray.  But they're all variations of a simple process.  Basically, praying is just “being with God” to enjoy, talk, listen.   {my second page about problem-solving prayer has more about process of prayer}   {an edifying sermon, Growth in Prayer (32:02), by Mike Safford — and soon (iou) I will summarize ideas from it, to share with you here – and Mike has 3 other useful messages}


Purposes of Prayer:  God wants you to help Him "make things better" in the ways He wants, to pursue His goals for The Kingdom of God.  His goals also will be your goals (usually but not always) IF you are placing Him on the throne of your life, with a Christ-Directed Life.  With the proper attitude of a disciple, you should want to be used by God, instead of wanting to use God.   {Rich Nathan, explaining Why Christians Pray, says "Christian prayer invites Jesus Christ into a situation to do what He wants to do."}

Joy & Faith & Being Thankful for your Life-Situation:  Whether or not a Christian has obvious reasons to be thankful, being thankful is a good way to feel.  It's essential for joy, as described in a web-page about living with joy as a Christian: "joy is a deep-seated sense of happiness in what God has done and what He is doing,” and looking forward with faith to what He will do;  it's being contented with what God is doing in your life, willing to thank God for your life-situation.  Basically, it’s having a "thankful heart" and is a key part in Paul’s description of how to thankfully-and-joyfully live by faith, in Philippians 4:4-7, "Celebrate joyfully in the Lord, all the time. …  Don’t worry about anything. Pray about everything.  With a thankful heart, offer up your prayers and requests to God.  Then the peace of God, surpassing all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."


Effective Living, as defined by God:  When you pray, many kinds of purpose-goals are possible, because God can help you in many ways;  you-and-God, with cooperative interactions, can use prayer to "make it better" in all aspects of life, for you and for others, in the short term & long term.  Therefore you can have a wide variety of goals for your praying.  Also, God will have His own goals for your praying;  if you are “in tune” with God, usually His goals will be similar to your goals, but won't be identical.  {what about prosperity promises?}   Many kinds of purpose-goals are possible because God can help you improve...   your problem-solving process, and your decisions & actions;   your relationship with Him;   your character, so you will have better attitudes toward God & people, with better motives and goals;   the results, both internally (re: what happens within you) and externally (re: what happens in life, for you & others) because "what happens" depends on...


Human Actions plus Divine Actions:  Instead of claiming “God will make you live better,” we believe "God can help you live better" because what happens depends on your human actions plus God's divine actions, as with Moses-and-Joshua plus God in Exodus 17:11. ("whenever Moses raised his hand [to acknowledge God's divine actions and ask for His blessing on their human actions], the battle went well for Israel;  but whenever he lowered his hand to rest, Amalek began to win.")   The results of your thinking-and-actions depend on what you do and what God does.  An essential interaction between these two levels-of-action occurs when — in an effort to “get help” for your own Human Actions when you're trying to solve problems so you can "make things better" for yourself and others — you decide to...    


Pray for Your Problem-Solving Process:  Christians believe that God will help us more often, and more effectively, when we ask for help.  If you believe this, you can pray for every part of your problem-solving process, from beginning to end.  Later we'll examine the process of problem solving, after continuing to look at prayer:



Can you pray constantly?  (and should you?)

In the Overview I say,

Usually you want to focus on your human actions while you are doing them, so you can do them better.  Therefore, "pray for everything" doesn't mean pray constantly.  Instead, one way to improve your actions (what you think-and-do) is to optimally regulate your thinking, including your thinking about God.   You should not "pray constantly" unless...   {unless your praying lets you "focus on your human actions," as explained in more about two kinds of praying} [with the link for "more" taking you here, where I'll try to explain how...]

One kind of praying — a nonverbal abiding with God that is practicing the presence of God“practicing the presence of God” — can "let you focus on human Actions" so this Abiding Prayer can be done constantly during any Action, to help you live more effectively in all Life-Situations.

But should we consider this to be praying, or a way of life, or both?     { Is it praying? yes, if prayer is being with God.  And yes, Abiding Prayer should be your way of life because Jesus says "abide in Me" and Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing."  So I think, yes and yes, it's both. }  {but what is the meaning of "pray without ceasing" mean constantly 24/7/365, or “pray regularly with perseverance”?


By contrast, Verbal Prayer — with verbal expressions (in words, silently or aloud)* of what you are thinking — is not done constantly during most Actions.  Instead the Verbal Praying is done on-and-off (Prayer, Action, Prayer, Action,...) so it's multitasking with time-sharing, with attention shifting back & forth between Prayer & Action.

* If abiding is your "way of life," your praying will be verbal-with-abiding, so it's Abiding Verbal Prayer.  If you constantly do Abiding Prayer, you are doing some Verbal Abiding Prayer and some NonVerbal Abiding Prayer.


Below is more about Verbal Prayer and Abiding Prayer.


Timings of On-and-Off Verbal Prayer:  To make Verbal Praying more useful for everything you do, you can use the different benefits of praying before, during, and after your actions.  Or, viewing from a different time-perspective, you can pray for actions in your future, present, and past, by...

    using prayer before your actions, asking God to help you improve the quality of your future actions,
and sometimes — but not always, because you want to regulate your thinking about your own thinking (using metacognition) and your thinking about God or your talking with God — using quick prayers (on-and-off) during your actions,* you can ask God to help you improve the quality of your current actions,
    and using prayer after your actions, you can ask God to improve the results of your past actions, and to help you learn more from your experiences so you can improve the quality of your future actions.
* During a typical Action Situation, short prayers are more useful than long prayers.  During an Action, or during a pause within the Action, you can quickly decide whether to “stop and pray” for 1 second, or 3 or 10 or more.   /   But in a longer-time Action Situation — as with an important decision you want to make in the next hour, or day, week, month — longer prayers can be very useful.

Effectiveness of On-and-Off Verbal Prayer:  Usually multitasking decreases the productivity of your Actions, but Prayer can help you be more productive so this kind of multitasking (by mixing Prayer with Action) can help you be more productive.  How?  You can use your praying more effectively when you do a Self-Regulation of Your Praying, similar to a...


Self-Regulation of Your Metacognition:  During an Action, sometimes you'll want to use metacognition — to think about your thinking — in an effort to improve your performing (in the present) and/or your learning (so you can perform better in your future).  And sometimes you'll want to minimize your metacognition so you can focus on your Action.  Deciding when to use metacognition (of a selected type & amount) and when to avoid metacognition — deciding when to “turn it on” and “turn it off” — is how you regulate your metacognition.

Self-Regulation of Your Praying:  During an Action, sometimes you'll want to Pray — to converse with God (to listen & talk), or just be with God — in an effort to improve your performing (in the present) and/or your learning (so you can perform better in your future).  And sometimes you'll want to minimize your verbal praying so you can focus on your Action.  Deciding when to use praying (of a selected type & amount) and when to avoid praying — deciding when to “turn it on” and “turn it off” — is how you regulate your praying.   /   For example, usually you don't want to "pray constantly" consciously with Verbal Prayer, because usually (in most life-situations) this won't be a strategy for thinking that is optimally effective for your performing and/or learning.  In addition to the usual kinds of metacognitive regulation (by choosing when to “think about your thinking”), now you also are regulating when you do & don't want to “think about God” (or “talk with God” or “consciously abide with God”) during your Action, while you are busy thinking-and-doing.

The title of this section asks "should we pray constantly?" and my answers are YES for Abiding Prayer (if it's done well), but NO for Verbal Prayer (it should be used on-and-off with wise self-regulation, and in some Action Situations you should avoid Verbal Prayer so you can focus on your Situation and your Actions).


Practicing the Presence of God (with Abiding Prayer) was made famous in a book by Brother Lawrence.  Pulpit Commentary describes Paul's "pray without ceasing" as "an exhortation to live in a devotional frame of mind.  It is impossible to be always on our bended knees, but we may be in the spirit of prayer when engaged in the duties of our earthly calling.  Prayer may be without ceasing in the heart which is full of the presence of God, and evermore communing with him."


MORE about Abiding Prayer & Verbal Prayer, about Multitasking and Regulation.



EVIDENCE — Does praying really help you improve?

Earlier, I say YES because I think that when Christians ask God for help during a process of problem solving, our praying will help us improve in many ways,* when...

    God provides insights & guidance, 
    we pay attention to our process of problem solving, with metacognition,
        and also because...
    God can influence our actions, and the results of our actions (as in Exodus 17:11),  and
    just taking time to relax usually is beneficial,  and
    just expecting to improve often brings improvement. (with a placebo effect)

* re: WHAT can be improved, the "many ways" include improving our character, understandings, compassion, love-in-action, and wisdom, now & later, plus the situation-results of our thinking & actions.  But God will not make you perfect during Life, so appropriate humility is justifiable.


Is there any evidence to support these claims-for-YES? (asking “can God help us improve?” and “does God help us improve?”)   When we search for evidence from the Bible and from science, we find...

a lot of biblical evidence:  The Bible clearly states that God can (and does) help us, by "providing insights & guidance" and in other ways.  These biblical claims are consistent with personal observations made by me and by many other Christians.   {more - biblical evidence}

some scientific evidence:  Let's look at research about the overall effects of prayer, and about possible causes of improvement.  We find...

    some research showing some overall benefits of prayers.
        And regarding possible causes,
    very few scientific studies (maybe none) investigating whether God does (or doesn't) "provide insights & guidance."
    many studies showing the benefits of metacognitively "paying attention to our process of problem solving," but fewer studies about the effects of learning & using principles-for-process similar to those described in my website;  but we have logical reasons to predict (by doing mental experiments) that learning principles-for-process (and “paying attention to process”) will be beneficial.
    many studies showing the overall benefits of "taking time to relax," as with controversial educational activities doing mindful meditation.  {but this isn't just "relaxing", it involves more and affects more}  {the observed effects are mixed (with some positives & negatives), but overall are positive}
    and in many studies we observe that just expecting to improve often brings improvement due to a placebo effect that can cause confusion about cause-effect relationships, so the effects of placebos should be considered when designing experiments.
    results are different for different...  kinds of evidence;  kinds of WHAT-improvements (e.g. there are stronger biblical claims for some [character, love] than for others [creativity],  and there is stronger scientific evidence for some [physical] than others [cognitive]);  kinds of prayer and/or mindful meditation;  people with different worldviews;  people with different ages (e.g. pre-K children thru young adults to elderly);  contexts (e.g. school [private, public] or psychological counseling, or yoga class, church group,...
    a Person – the triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) – decides His responses to prayer, and in each particular case His responses depend on the person and their situation, so His responses are not mechanistic and scientifically predictable.
    {more - scientific evidence}  {a slide about WHETHER in my PowerPoint Outline}


This table shows possible questions to ask, re: ideas above (about EVIDENCE) when we consider specific sub-groups, with interactions between kinds of people (Christian, Jewish,...) and kinds of prayer (theistic, or “non-religious” meditation, or a mix).  What is the evidence for “effectiveness” (however this is defined or measured) in each cell?  For example, what about prayer for an agnostic, or meditation for an agnostic.

Also we could ask (if we had a 3-dimensional table, or multiple tables) for evidence of various types:  biblical, experiential, scientific.   And (with a 4-dimensional table, or multiple tables, for various complicating factors) for different possible effects:  physical, "spiritual", behavioral, emotional/affective, cognitive.   { I don't think there is much evidence about the presence (or absence) of cognitive effects, but I don't yet know;  probably there is much more evidence about other kinds of effects. }


 PEOPLE who are: 
 Theistic Prayer 
(WITH God) 
 or a mixture of 
  both types  
 Mindful Meditation 
 Christian (theist)       
 Jewish (theist)      
 Moslem (theist)      
 other religions       



Appropriate Humility

When you ask God for help, He will help you improve in many ways.  But you should have appropriate humility — not too little, and not too much — because although God is helping you improve, He will not make you perfect during your life on earth.  There is no “formula for total success” that is foolproof, because we sometimes behave like fools,* and (even when we're operating at our best) some problems are difficult, and some problems don't have a satisfactory solution because "making it better" doesn't make it totally satisfactory.  But even though we don't have a guarantee for an easy process or satisfactory solution, God does promise that your life — in your problem solving and in other ways — will be much better with Him than without Him.     {transformation and humility}

* One way to "behave like a fool" is to be arrogantly overconfident about answering a question that is justifiably controversial — because different answers are proposed by devout Bible-believing Christians who have diligently studied the question and what the Bible says about it, and have prayed — with an overconfidence shown by arrogantly declaring that “I prayed about this, so I have The Correct Answer, given to me by God.”

{more - imperfect transformations and examples of non-humble arrogance}



Three Perspectives on Problem-Solving Process

Here are three ways (A B C) to look at the same flexibly improvised process of solving problems, by Using Cycles of Generate-and-Evaluate, or Using Cycles of Plan-and-Do/Observe, or Using Experiments.


A.  Using Cycles of Generate-and-Evaluate:  When you are Defining Problems and Solving Problems in all areas of life, as shown in the diagram's top part (to Define) and bottom part (to Solve):

3 Comparisons

• First, to Define a Problem you Learn More (about a Problem-Situation) so you understand more thoroughly-and-accurately, so you can Define your Objective (for what you want to “make better” and how you want to invest your valuable time by deciding “what is the best use of my time right now? or later?”) and Define your Goals (for a satisfactory Problem-Solution);

• Then, to Solve the Problem you creatively Generate Options (for a Problem-Solution) and critically Evaluate Options, and you continue Generating-and-Evaluating Ideas (about Options for a Solution) in cycles of creative-and-critical thinking until you decide on a satisfactory Plan (for problem-solving action to achieve a Solution) so you can do this Plan.


Pray for Your Problem-Solving Process:  Why should you pray for your process, and how?  When you pray, asking God for help with your process of problem solving, two good things happen:

because you have asked for help, God is more likely to help you improve your thinking, AND you are paying attention to your process, so you will try to think productively by getting accurate understanding and doing creative-and-critical thinking, by asking...

“what is the best use of my time? (i.e. what should I be doing, in my efforts to make things better?)” to choose a Problem-Objective;

and while you're trying to solve this Problem, “what should I do next, in my goal-directed flexibly improvised decisions about how to solve this problem?”;

and “can I think more effectively in creatively Generating Ideas, and critically Evaluating Ideas?”;

and for problems involving people, “what do they want? what do I want?” with empathy & self-empathy, and “how might we achieve a better win-win result?”;

and other process-questions, based on the process described in A, B, or C.


Perspectives A (above) and B & C (below) describe the same process.  Using a different perspective, you can view the process as Cycles of Generate-and-Evaluate (in A) that (in B) occur within Cycles of Plan-and-Do/Observe.


B.  Using Cycles of Plan-and-Do/Observe:  You can learn more from your experiences by using cycles of Plan-and-Do/Observe followed by RePlan-and-Do/Observe.  How?  You make a Plan (for problem-solving action), then you Do the Plan and Observe what happens,* so you can adjust (if you think this will help) when you Re-Plan for the next time, in your next cycle(s) of RePlan-and-Do/Observe.

* Two Kinds of Experience, Physical & Mental:  You can learn from your experience when you Do the Plan and you Observe what did happen (in a physical experience) or (in a mental experience) when you imagine doing the Plan and you Predict what would happen.

One way to learn from experience is to develop-and-improve strategies for thinking in all areas of life.

We can learn from every experience – as described here and here – whether we consider it to be a success or failure.  In fact, we often learn more about “doing it better the next time” from failures, as in the experiences that motivated me to write this page.


Below, C is a deeper exploration of the interactions that occur – during your process of problem solving – between Information & Evaluation & Generation.*


C.  Using Experiments:  During a process of solving problems, you USE Experiences (i.e. you USE Experiments) in four ways:

1. for Experiment → Information,  you USE an Experiment to make Information, when you make Predictions (for what will happen) by doing a Mental Experiment, or you make Observations (of what did happen) by doing a Physical Experiment;

2. for Information → Evaluation,  you USE this Experimental Information to do Experiment-Based Evaluation by Comparing 3 Elements (Predictions, Observations, Goals) in 3 Ways.   {first imagine these 3 Ways to Compare, and then look below at * }

3. for Evaluation → Generation,  you USE this Experiment-Based critical Evaluation (of an old Option) to stimulate-and-guide your creative Generation (of a new Option);

4. for Evaluation → Generation,  you USE this Experiment-Based critical Evaluation to stimulate-and-guide your creative Generation (of new Information) by asking “what additional Information (Predictions and/or Obervations) would be useful for Evaluation? and what Experiments will help me get this Information?” so you can creatively design new Experiments to USE in these four ways.

* You can explore interactions by thinking about each part of the process (1 2 3 4) and then clicking the links above, plus here & here for verbal-and-visual explanations with more details and depth.


* Above I say:  "2. ... you USE this Experimental Information to do Experiment-Based Evaluation by Comparing 3 Elements (Predictions, Observations, Goals) in 3 Ways."  What and Why?  In each Comparison of 2 Elements, you are doing an evaluative Reality Check for Science-Design, or an evaluative Quality Check for General Design, as shown here:

3 Elements used in 3 Comparisons

3 Comparisons of 3 Elements:  While you're trying to Solve a Problem you Generate Options (for a Problem-Solution) and Design Experiments that you Do (mentally and/or physically) so you can Use the Information (mental PREDICTIONS and/or physical OBSERVATIONS about the Properties of an Option) to Evaluate the Option, and you use this critical Evaluation of Ideas for your creative Generation of Ideas.  During your Evaluation you can compare Predictions & Observations (made in Mental Experiments & Physical Experiments) with each other and with your GOALS for the Properties of a satisfactory Solution.


These problem-solving actions are shown verbally-and-visually in Diagrams 1, 2a, 3a, 3b where you also can see diagrams for Using Experiences (i.e. Experiments) and Cycles of Plan-and-Do/Observe.




If you want to discuss any of these ideas,
you can contact me, <crusbult@wisc.edu> ;
Craig Rusbult, PhD - my life on a road less traveled
Page-URL is https://educationforproblemsolving.net/design-thinking/mc-pr.htm
Copyright © 1978-2019 by Craig Rusbult.  All Rights Reserved.
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