Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This Prayer Thing

A novice has a go......

"Well God, I've heard a lot of people speak highly of prayer, so I thought I'd give it a try. Of course I need to make a couple of assumptions; (1) You exist and (2) my concept of God is compatible with what You find acceptable. The latter may be the bigger leap of faith, so to speak. After all, whether you exist is basically a 50/50 chance, but given the many views on what is acceptable to You, each saying the others are wrong, the odds of having the correct one seem to be pretty long. But I digress."

"From what I've seen I should start out by laying on a little flattery, which seems a bit silly. You're supposed to be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. It's pretty tough to come up with anything to compete with that, and based on those characteristics You already know what I'll say anyway. Let's see....... I understand You're responsible for the existence of everything, which is pretty impressive, although I've noticed people tend to downplay all the bad stuff included in that. I think it's reasonable to expect a few problems with that big an undertaking, but people don't seem to like the idea that things didn't turn out exactly as You wanted - I guess it clashes with that omnipotence - so they end up saying things like this is the best possible world, which doesn't speak terribly well of You in my opinion, or that You put us here to make things better, which again isn't very flattering; given the overall record of the human race I would think You could do better. "

"I see I have drifted off again. Staying focused is proving to be a bit of a problem. I don't see how people like the Pope can pray for hours. I believe here is where I am supposed to make my supplication. It seems people have all sorts of requests; world peace, good weather, healing of sickness both individual and group, an end to war.... it goes on and on. Most of it wouldn't seem too difficult for a being with the power they attribute to You. But they always end with an out; "Thy will be done". I guess this covers the possibility that either You don't listen to them or You like things the way they are. It seems odd to always allow for the complete failure of something they claim is so important, but based on their apparent success rate I suppose it makes sense. "

"Anyway, it seems best to keep it simple, so......there seems to be a general claim that everything is a part of some sort of plan You have for the universe in general and us in particular. I hope that I don't get hosed over in this plan, but You're going to do what You want, and based on what I've seen so far I won't be surprised if I do. If You're listening, thanks. Amen. "


TLF+ said...

We need a blogger beatitude that says, "Blessed are those who are true to their profiles!" And Mike, you are certainly true to hard headed analysis and spasms of silliness in this post.

I like the piece because it reminds me that most of the world doesn't speak the churchy code or shorthand that I might share with others of my same faith.

A few reflections, with you in italics :

I need to make a couple of assumptions More like taking a risk, as in asking someone for a date. You kind of get at this analytically when you talk about "50/50 chance." When it comes to prayer, our analytic mind will always assert theological ideas (what God is, ideas about God, etc.), which can get in the way of where prayer is ultimately leading: a relationship with all the misfires, compromises but also care and acceptance that are in your descriptions of marriage.

laying on a little flattery LOL yeah, as someone in a traditional kinda church, most of our prayers are written that way, I have to admit. But again, getting back to human relationships as a tool to understand prayer, which of our relationships can survive if we don't affirm the other party's value? I do see what you mean: if we affirm God in certain language then God just becomes impossibly abstract and untouchable. Which is why Jesus taught prayer in family language and even a spasm of silliness or two (see Luke 11... if you don't have a Bible propping up the short table leg, you can go to Bible Gateway or some other online site). Luke 11 where Jesus' disciples say, "Teach us to pray..."

But they always end with an out; "Thy will be done". Yes, because when all is said and done, even for those of us who are comfortable with prayer and do it a bunch, God retains a good bit of mystery. And we sit on a very uncomfortable rail - on one side is the passivity of "well, I guess there's an order to things so I'll just let everything be as it is" and on the other side is the certainty that screams, "Burn the unbelievers!!!" But that dilema is present in politics, academics, all kinds of endeavors besides the life of faith and prayer. So prayer can be the uncomfortable work of riding that rail, trying to get a bit of guidance as to when we can rest our crotch and jump down on one side of the fence or the other before climbing back up for more discomfort.

Staying focused is proving to be a bit of a problem. Amen. Always will be, no matter how "proficient" one becomes. Constant struggle for those who pray.

Anyway, it seems best to keep it simple Yep. Jesus says that "many words" don't improve prayer; St. Paul says that "eloquence" gets in the way of spiritual power. Uggh. Simple good. Simple friend. Me pray simple.

there seems to be a general claim that everything is a part of some sort of plan You have for the universe in general and us in particular. I hope that I don't get hosed over in this plan Print this, stick it in some place where you are sure to find it again, and revisit it every so often. I think that prayers (and you have launched one here) always get answered - it might be a clear, "No, I ain't gonna tell you", or it might be a totally detailed roadmap for your life, or maybe a series of clues in a more strung out response. It might happen in a dream tonight, or it might come years from now after you totally dropped the subject.

Well, one thing that's clear is that you didn't say, "God, send some dork to write a whole book in my blog comments." So signing off (but adding you to my prayers).


Tregonsee said...

I am certain that God has heard far worse first prayers. Mine, for instance. But hang in there. As you and He get to know each other, it gets easier all around.


Anonymous said...

Do you have free will? Where does it come from? Is everything you do a a complex set of reactions to the environment based on your biology or do you have a choice? If you have a choice, then:

Thank God for that choice,
Ask for guidance for making good choices,
Ask for forgiveness when you make bad choices,
Ask to forgive others when they make bad choices, and
Ask that when others make bad choices, it doesn't effect you.

Mike said...

Wow! Thanks to one and all for the comments. It's nice to see a few people actually stumble unpon this humble blog. It provides more motivation to buy that laptop I've been pondering to enable me to post more.

TLF+, It's always nice to see another South Dakotan on-line. You definitely gave that response more thought than I gave the post,but then I see by your profile that you think about this sort of thing for a living. I have intermittently stopped by the Northern Plains Anglicans site to read up on the disagreements going on within the Anglican Communion. Hopefully something good will come of it.

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