Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On Prayer and Mud Puddles...

What is prayer? I think we all pretty much do know, but just for the sake of those who are feeling particularly obtuse, we're going to define prayer as when you are reaching out to whatever higher power you subscribe to to either:
  1. Ask this higher power for something, or
  2. Thank this higher power for making something happen
Pretty straight forward, right?

People typically engage in prayer during meals (Thanks for the food that I went to the store to buy...), when tragedy strikes (sickness, disease, loss of job...), or when they are just in a great mood (Thanks for letting the sun shine today!). Jesus exhorted his followers to pray to God, Paul exhorted them to pray to God through Jesus, and many times through the bible, people are encouraged to pray for needs, wants, wishes, and for their child's Little League team to crush the opposition (as the opposition prays for the same thing).

I can't help but wonder: Why do Christians, who earnestly feel that prayer is answered by god (in the forms of yes, no, and not now), not simply sit in their car and pray for the car to start? Or, pray that dinner will be ready when they get home? Pray that the cancer will go away instead of seeing doctors and going through chemo? (Some worshippers of sky god do indeed not see doctors following this line of thought...) What keeps these people who truly believe that god intervenes on a daily basis for "the greater good" not pray for daily needs to be met? Why install plumbing when the bible clearly recounts that all Moses had to do was ask a rock? (which the dumb ass hit with a stick instead--resulting in a "Does not follow instructions" on his report card...) Why don't they simply go outdoors and... ask the rocks for water? Why is prayer reserved for either the extremely mundane (dinner) or the extremely urgent emergencies (sickness)? Why don't people pray for god to part the mud puddle in front of the entrance to the store, like the Red Sea supposedly was once upon a time? Or that, when they run out of grape juice (because, god forbid they have some wine) do they not just pray for their bottled water to be transformed?

Is it that their faith isn't strong enough? God said that where one or two ask in his name, so it shall be:

Mat 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
Funny how Jesus mentions nothing of the current train of thought of "yes," "no," and "not now." He says, where two shall ask, it shall be done. Makes one wonder why abortion isn't illegal yet, doesn't it? I mean, we all know there are thousands of people praying for abortion to be made illegal--is sky god tied up in legal red tape? or simply hoping for a constitutional amendment to pass across his desk? Perhaps Jesus really meant "Where two-thirds of a majority of humans agree." Perhaps?

I could pray for all my work on my desk tonight to magically be done for me in the morning when I go into work. Well, okay, maybe not me. But my dad could. My mom. Beth, Steve, Adam, Anonymous #1-12 could all get together and agree that this is what they will pray for... But guess what? Their work won't be done. Of course, having prayed about it, they might find the work easier, as meditation and calming of the mind is medically shown to improve work productivity, reduce stress, and release endorphins. And while intercessory prayer cannot be shown to have any kind of effect on world events, time taken for the self to reflect, ponder, or "pray" has been shown to be good for you. Not because of a super power hiding behind the stratosphere, but because that's how our bodies have learned to cope best.

Regardless, many of you will now come on here to claim "answered prayer" experiences (and, really, what were the options of what would happen? Yes, no, and not now?) One of those three would be the answer--in fact, are the answer to anything I desire in my life. I just don't need a supernatural reason to cope, I suppose.

The reason I think they don't stare at their car all day praying for it to start? They know it won't. Why don't they simply ask a rock in the garden for water? They know it won't happen. It's easier to pray about things that have a.) already happened (dinner) and b.) to pray about things that are beyond our control (cancer, heart disease) because we can then declare it sky god's will. Even though it wasn't.

A passing acquaintance just had to put her dog down. Of course, she was very upset, as any of we pet owners would have been. He had terminal cancer that was eating him alive, and so, to spare him the slow death of starvation and pain, she put him down. A few days later we happened to talk again, and I asked how she was dealing with it and such--you know, being a decent person. And she looked at me and said:

C: I prayed about this. I felt it was the right thing to do. God gave me a peace about this decision. (I think you know why I keep her at a distance...)
Me: God gave you peace about putting down Rex? (Names have been changed to protect the identities of dogs who have passed on from being exploited by John Edwards...)
C: Yes. God gave me an understanding that it was Rex's time.
Me: Did he tell you why it was Rex's time?
C: It's not my place to question God. (said with a sunny smile and dreamy look)
Me: I'm sorry, I know you are having to deal with this in the only way you know how, but--
C: Oh, it's okay. God would want me to talk about this.
Me: (wary look) He told you that to, did he?
C: (sunny smile)
Me: If god didn't tell you why it was Rex's time, but you feel there was a reason for Rex's death--doesn't the logic follow that god would want you to know the reason for taking away your friend?
C: In time, I'm sure God will tell me why.
Me: Why didn't you just pray for Rex to get better?
C: Oh, I did. For many nights, my husband and I laid hands on him and prayed for the healing powers of god. But God simply said, No, it's Rex;s time to go.
Me: Seriously?
C: Oh, I know you aren't a believer--I didn't expect you to understand.
Me: So--you truly believe that god wanted Rex to die. You don't know why. You don't even feel you need to know why.
C: Right.
Me: And even though Rex was going to die anyway, sooner or later, you feel putting him down--was an answer to your prayer?
C: Well, of course! (dazzling smile) What else would it be?
Me: Um, your dog dying.
C: But God gave me peace. I knew he was ready for Rex to come home.
Me: So you base all of this on a hunch.
C: No, a peace that passes understanding. (She pats my arm.)
Me: (Pulling my arm away--freakin' touchy-feely people, UGH!) Well, I'm sorry for your loss.
C: Oh, I'll see him again. But thank you regardless. (sunny smile.)
Me: Even though the dog was already going to die, all you did was help him avoid pain and starvation, and pay a couple of hundred dollars to do so, you feel this was god's answer to prayer...
C: (sunny smile) More than anything.
Two people asked. Rex didn't get better. The vet had said Rex was going to die. So they put Rex to sleep. So--if the cancer was the big bad, the people made the decision, and the vet administered the treatment--excuse me, where was the divine intervention here? (Cough! Coping mechanism, coping mechanism!) I mean, I know people need to cope with things they don't understand (like cancer) or are scared of (hmm, also like cancer), but this 20/20 blind sight just swings me for a loop. When will the greater deluded public of humanity realize that we don't control everything, that this does not equal a divine, and that shit just happens?

I'd feel better just knowing I helped my dog avoid a painful, inevitable death. In fact, I've already experienced this many, many times in my life, of having to say goodbye to a friend due to unfortunate shit that happens. So--if its god that handing out the peace, how did I get mine?

Until your god splits that mud puddle for you--or starts your car, or gives you electricity when the rest of the town is in power outage due to the freak snowstorms--you don't have a prayer. All you have is the knowledge that something is going to happen, and it will either be good, bad, or be delayed... And you don't have a prayer...

2 comments:

mom said...

hello jason, i had a good nights sleep and thought about this when i felt refreshed. prayer is not about getting everything you ask for but its for talking with the One that can change things if its for our good. in all the bad things i went through i can say prayer was a BIG help since i was talking with my Heavenly Father. He wants us to talk with Him about all and use our brain to fix what we can on our own but to come to Him about it all since He always gets back to us on everything we ask in His name. it might not be what you think should be done but since He knows us He knows what we need and not need. i learned a long time ago to be content in everything good and bad alike and look for the blessing. when faced with something to ask for WISDOM to decide what is best for whatever at that time. if i need anything from God it is love for others and wisdom in all things. prayer is a wonderful thing since i can pray anywhere and at anytime and i don't have to build alters or light candles or climb a certain amount of steps or hit myself till i am bleeding just cry out to Him about anything! praying is not just for asking but to letting Him know how thankful you are also for His many blessings. blessings from Him is not just for things but for peace of mind, air, friends, and even if i couldn't walk, talk, see etc. i know God will open up to me the blessing that i will have in store just for me since He loves me. that is why He promises me a home in heaven that He is making for me and whoever believes in His Son. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is one of my other favorite verses. Be joyful, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods's will for you in Christ Jesus. another one is in Hebrews 5:16. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. mercy and grace is what we all need. you don't hear many people using words like that anymore since we all can't even grow old anymore with grace. its to get a face lift so you don't look old!! i could get on another soap box for sure on this one. well, anyway, i love you and thanks for this blog so it keeps me thinking! love and prayers

mom said...

hello jason, i had a good nights sleep and thought about this when i felt refreshed. prayer is not about getting everything you ask for but its for talking with the One that can change things if its for our good. in all the bad things i went through i can say prayer was a BIG help since i was talking with my Heavenly Father. He wants us to talk with Him about all and use our brain to fix what we can on our own but to come to Him about it all since He always gets back to us on everything we ask in His name. it might not be what you think should be done but since He knows us He knows what we need and not need. i learned a long time ago to be content in everything good and bad alike and look for the blessing. when faced with something to ask for WISDOM to decide what is best for whatever at that time. if i need anything from God it is love for others and wisdom in all things. prayer is a wonderful thing since i can pray anywhere and at anytime and i don't have to build alters or light candles or climb a certain amount of steps or hit myself till i am bleeding just cry out to Him about anything! praying is not just for asking but to letting Him know how thankful you are also for His many blessings. blessings from Him is not just for things but for peace of mind, air, friends, and even if i couldn't walk, talk, see etc. i know God will open up to me the blessing that i will have in store just for me since He loves me. that is why He promises me a home in heaven that He is making for me and whoever believes in His Son. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is one of my other favorite verses. Be joyful, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods's will for you in Christ Jesus. another one is in Hebrews 5:16. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. mercy and grace is what we all need. you don't hear many people using words like that anymore since we all can't even grow old anymore with grace. its to get a face lift so you don't look old!! i could get on another soap box for sure on this one. well, anyway, i love you and thanks for this blog so it keeps me thinking! love and prayers