Prayer, I still don’t understand (1)

Pogue,

I’m interrupting my Go Deep Or Go Home Series as the other night I found myself laying awake praying and doing so with focus. For a guy who likes his sleep this was beyond unusual. I had even gone to bed tired and then transgressed one of my golden rules. I opened an email from a person who emails me occasionally and, unexpectedly, found myself with a lady immersed in a family crisis involving long term and potentially terminal illness. I was surprised and maybe even mildly shocked, so, I found myself praying. I later discovered I was in good company for around the world “a whole host of rosary-sayers, Koran-prayers, Bible blessers, yogis, shamans and even this morning waitress” were “in on the act”.

God answers prayers in his own way, not ours.

Mahatma Gandhi

Having prayed I eventually dropped off but not before I had asked myself a lot of questions, many repeated from previous occasions. You see I believe as a process, as a mechanism, prayer works and should be part and parcel of the normal life. I have done it, not always frequently, for years. There are times I have chosen not to do it because my reason for doing it has seemed to lack integrity. I have gone about it a number of ways. I’ve experimented. I’ve had some success and some failure. But, hands up, I confess that after years I probably understand prayer less now than I ever have. It’s a real “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” moment.

Think. Whilst claiming exclusivity, all religions pray to the Divine. Different names but still the Divine. All believe they have exclusive access. For me this is beyond lunacy reducing God to something far less than any of them want God to be. But, then who am I to question another persons religion?

Then there’s that thing where people pray when in a crisis. It’s like humans are hard wired to pray when the chips are down. When desperation sets in. Others pray daily. Many have a ritual that their particular form of religiousness puts upon them. Times, mats, beads, sounds, standing, kneeling, prostrate. Whatever, prayer seems to happen at some point in most people’s lives and everyone seems to have a rudimentary idea of how to go about it. There’s an instinct.

Ok so far?

Then I have this observation. For most people, comforting as it may be to think the All Mighty has been involved in their situation, prayer just doesn’t normally work. Harsh? Well I make that comment based on observation over a long period. I’ve attended varying prayer gatherings as both participant and as observer. I have watched people petition their concept of the Ultimate Being with request, in urgency, in frustration and then return, same time, same channel, the following week, to repeat the process. And nothing changes accept maybe the prayer which loses some of it’s initial passion and ‘God heal this person’ becomes ‘God guide the doctors hands’ becomes ‘God help the medicine work’ becomes ‘God comfort this person in their time of distress’. Does a reduction of the request make it more likely God will intervene? Or does every reduction reduce the size of our God?

As said I don’t understand and I think something has gone wrong. If the medicine works maybe it was always going to work and declaring “God heard me” is only filling my need for comfort and security. It’s no proof of a relationship we may imagine we have.

I know now, Lord, why you uttered no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?

C.S.Lewis

Finally, there’s the ultimate defence of one’s position and interaction with the Divine. The assure declaration that God’s failure to act on my behalf and grant my prayer is in fact God hearing my prayer and, lovingly and wisely, answering ‘No’. If that sort of thought makes you feel good, reassures you and affirms your place in relation to the Universe, well, bless you. For me the absence of an answer, be it ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is not an answer. Think, a parent doesn’t establish that a child shouldn’t have or do something by ignoring the child. I mean, without an answer the child could just as likely go off and do that thing. The responsible parent explains why we don’t jump from heights with cardboard wings tied to us so the child knows it is not a safe or desirable thing to do.

Which all brings us to relationship and here I’ll stop until another letter.

Yours, still searching,

Wic.

3 thoughts on “Prayer, I still don’t understand (1)

  1. Wic, here you’re talking about prayer when it is a supplication, an intercession, and I agree; if the petitioners’ multiplicity, fervor, repetition and eloquence coax Divine attention, then it feels, I think you said it— inane. But all the quantum physicists and energy empaths say that focused healing does occur, that benevolent focused intention has a measurable effect. Jesus said that he “felt the energy going out from him” when the hemorrhaging woman grabbed the fringe of his cloak.
    I love how you use your experience as a parent to question whether a “non-answer” to prayer is not necessarily a no. And I’m eager to learn how you describe “relational prayer” that you closed with. Does the prayer of relationship necessarily presume God to be an Ultimate Other? Could prayer be a depth of harmony with one’s relationship with self? Guessing those are prayers of praise and wonder, prayers of contrition, and prayers of gratitude. And what is the silent prayer of waiting, of union, immersion in loving, ultimate mystery, great Spirit?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a believer in Jesus Christ, God’s son, I have had questions along the same lines. Confession: I am not a good prayer warrior. I do believe in prayer as a means to have a relationship with God, a me to Him relationship. I believe He always hears me, sure I don’t always hear him though for He speaks countless ways. I have learned and still always surprised when He does answers. So many times, for me, I get the answers much later then when I prayed, but I always know it is Him answering. That is the supernatural part of God, His choice, His way and it always comforts me and makes my faith in Him deeper. I believe the bible teaches us to make our life a life of prayer. Not just that sit down together around a table kind of prayer life even though that is good too. But a daily walk with my awareness being alert to Him, not me or the issues of life. Prayer for me is a worshipping of Him. I don’t worship the creation, but the creator. It’s like taking a walk with someone you know loves you which makes me thankful they wanted to take a walk with me and that makes me love them more and want more walks with them. I woke up this morning with Him, I am typing this with Him, going to go to the store with Him as soon as I finish this. I don’t have to make time for Him because He is with me in all things. As He and I walk together I will through out our walk drop requests as they come to mind. Right now I am waiting for answered prayer on a couple things, our son and his job, a couple friends who are real sick, my health, extra finances to go to the a family members wedding. My prayers are simple daily things that all go through. I really don’t pray for the worlds needs, sorry if that upset some but I don’t. I trust God for all that big stuff for I do believe He has a plan better than all the politicians out there. One last thing, the one I pray and trust is the one the bible talks about, the God of the universe who sent His Son to die for the sins of the world and most important, rose after a three days in the tomb and now sits at the right hand of the Father. I know you want to touch base with all beliefs which is why I am bold in my belief. If I am wrong in that belief then what have I lost? But if I am right in my Bible believing beliefs then I gain heaven and a walk with the Creator.

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