“The crucial question in prayer is not whether God suspends the laws of the universe, or whether he grants what people ask for, but whether we really open ourselves to him, open ourselves to his creating, saving presence” (Christianity Rediscovered, page 137). In his now classic book, Christianity Rediscovered, Vincent Donovan writes of his experiences sharing the message of Christianity with the Maasai tribes in Tanzania. Prior to approaching the various Maasai clans, the young Catholic priest resolves to simply present the message of Christianity—stripped as much as possible of his own Western rituals and conventions. He presents the teaching of Jesus without offering anything else that would cajole the people into a response. Nor does he ask for anything in return. As Donovan proceeds through his instruction with the Maasai, he is faced with the question, “How should Christians pray?”
In his spiritual and ethnographic account of being a missionary to African Masai tribes in the 1960’s, Vincent Donovan writes of a surprising encounter with a Masai leader (Christianity Rediscovered, ch 4). Vincent begins his outreach to the Masai quite sincerely, by bringing up various spiritual themes and asking the people their opinion. During his first week with the Masai, he asks what they think about God (God was not a foreign concept to the Masai, they already believed in a supreme deity). “If I ever run into God, I will put a spear through him,” says one elder. As different as the Masai are from Westerners today, this sentiment toward God is surprisingly similar to our own reaction toward God when faced with mounting suffering.